With great prominence,
This game is between the
They come to see the sport in person, regardless of who is playing. They show their NFL fandom by wearing whatever jersey they have bought, Brady and Beckham more often than anyone else, but with
London doesn’t have a home team and it certainly doesn’t have a home star. It has the Jaguars though, who have tried to create a foothold by
Yet the Jags have never had one of their players connect with the English the way a pseudo “home team” star could. That’s mainly because they’ve had almost no one worth cheering for, a collection of mostly dull players on bad teams. Heading into this season, they won a meager 15 games combined since playing in London.
[Watch on Yahoo:
Jacksonville’s big rookie running back has the potential to not just transform the franchise (it’s 1-1 this season) but also give the Jaguars the kind of easy-to-root-for-star in their home away from home.
At least that’s the plan.
“Most definitely,” Fournette said. “If I give them a show, I think they are going to want my jersey. I might be the biggest player there.”
Fournette, a 6-foot, 228-pound freight train of a running back, is just two games into his NFL career. He has gained 140 yards rushing (plus 45 more receiving) and scored two touchdowns. His potential is unquestioned. He was a breakout star at LSU, where he averaged 6.2 yards per carry and scored 40 touchdowns across three seasons.
The possibilities with Fournette are so great that the Jaguars spent the fourth overall pick on him despite the league generally being repulsed at drafting running backs that high. Coincidentally it was the same spot Dallas took
These are two old-school franchise running backs.
For marketing purposes, much like Brady (who wins and wins) and Beckham (who catches acrobatic passes with one hand) Fournette’s game is the kind young fans want to emulate.
“I’m a playmaker,” Fournette said. “A north-south runner who can make people miss but also run through people. I can give them a show.”
We hit the streets of London to ask students the rules of NFL football.
If he provides NFL fans everywhere that show, particularly Sunday against an excellent Ravens defense, then annual appearances in London (and the community outreach that goes with it) could excite the masses. Certainly in a way that no Jaguars player ever has. For most of the Jaguars’ London experiment, fourth-year quarterback
The London connection makes Jacksonville unique. Nearly every NFL player, especially at the skill positions, seeks to maximize their income through marketing and advertising. That isn’t easy in Jacksonville. The Jaguars are a relatively new team, its first season was in 1995. It exists in a small market, just 1.6 million people. And it resides in football-crowded state, battling for fans and attention against not just older NFL franchises in
London’s metropolitan area, with a population of 13.6 million (larger than Los Angeles County) offers a chance for the Jags and its stars to overcome some of that.
Fournette is well aware. He is a likeable, relatable personality. He was a fan favorite at LSU. He joked Tuesday about his concerns over the pending 10-hour flight to London (“What do you do on a plane for that long?” he asked) and how he hoped there might be some downtime for some shopping (“Clothing, shoes, things we don’t get here.”)
Mainly he wants to embrace London, this year and every year, as a life opportunity, not merely another game.
“It’s cool, this is a chance to experience new stuff,” Fournette said. “This is my first time going over there.
“I believe I can connect with the fans,” he continued. “Just give me a chance to interact with the people in London and for me to get to know their culture. I think it’s going to be a fun opportunity to get to know how they are.”
Combine that with 100-plus yards rushing and a few touchdowns Sunday (far easier typed than done) and London might finally have a “home” star they can embrace. Then next year, and the next and the next, they can wear his No. 27 to the game.
More from Yahoo Sports:
Yahoo! Sports spoke with the NFL league offices in London and citizens around the city and gauged fears and concerns leading up to the Ravens-Jaguars game on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.