“American Football’s popularity is rising… and it’s no different here in Sheffield”: The Sheffield Giants story so far

Words by Iago Castro.

A two-sided debate always comes up when discussing football in Sheffield: Blades or Owls; Owls or Blades. However, little do people know there’s another football in town, with an equally passionate breed of followers – American Football. 

It’s a sport that sounds foreign, unknown, just different to many in the UK. But the truth is American Football’s popularity is rising on a daily basis across the country – and it’s no different here in Sheffield.

More and more people are not buying those stereotypes anymore: long games, difficult to understand, too “American”. Once all these misconceptions are left behind, the sport traps you, and there’s no way to turn back. As a wide receiver for Sheffield Giants, I can attest to its appeal.

The helmets, the trenches, the eye-paint, the violence. Everything’s so cinematographic.

Believe it or not, the first American Football team in Sheffield was founded back in the 80s, but it didn’t last long.

Then, after decades of comings and goings, Sheffield finally got an established team in 2008. A serious project. Firstly known as Sheffield Predators, after controversy surrounding that name, they were rebranded as Sheffield Giants in 2016.

And now, in 2023, the person writing these lines jumps into this story.

I fell in love with American Football during my University years, playing four seasons and fully immersed myself in all the narratives surrounding this great sport, from films and documentaries to long Sunday evenings watching NFL (Go Raiders!).

After moving to Sheffield, circumstances made me closer to the game as a fan, thinking my time as a player was over.

I was wrong. Circumstances, again.

After coming back to play flag football (a non-contact variant of the sport), I decided to go to one of the Sheffield Giants Open Days. And all those feelings I had deep inside me flourished again within seconds. It just happened. I knew I was back into it straight away.

Birmingham Bulls vs Sheffield Giants. Scott Thomson.

I wasn’t the only one going through a time of change. The Giants, a Premier League team, decided to go down to Division 1 on request; it was time to readjust the project, get new players and sponsors, and come back stronger than ever.

A new head coach, Matt Flynn, loads of rookie players like myself and plenty of desire to make big things. However, new starts are never easy.

The first game of the season, against Northants Knights, a battle of low points and high-intensity football, was definitely a dose of reality after the team-building months.

Midway through the last quarter, the Kings would take the lead. Seconds after the score, still in the midst of celebrations, Joshua Jennings, OL from Knights, suffered a cardiac arrest. An unprecedented situation none of the present (some of them with decades of American football experience) had witnessed before.

Thankfully, due to the quick medical response, Joshua’s life was saved and he fully recovered.

To add a positive note to this issue, the NFL invited Joshua, alongside Giants and Knights players and staff members, to Tottenham Stadium, the official NFL spot in London, in a campaign to raise awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and how a quick response can save lives, especially after the Damar Hamlin case, an NFL player, last December, was also saved and fully recovered in similar circumstances.

The rest of the season was a roller-coaster. Hard losses, proud losses, great and not-so-great wins, and big lows and brilliant highs. From losing 77-0 against Chester Romans to making the biggest-ever comeback in Britball after defeating them 38-12 in the second leg. 103. They’ll get it.

A 5-5 record, a 3rd position in the table, and plenty of hope for a bright future. Me, like my teammates, I’m focused on working out hard this offseason. The goal is to win the league and return to the Premier Division.

Do you believe you can be part of it? Send us a message. Be Giant.

Giants Instagram.

Giants Facebook.

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