PITTSBURGH — English breakfast is “fire,” the fish and chips are “not good” and the interest in football is “so cool.”
Those are among JuJu Smith-Schuster’s hot takes from London, where he’s appearing this week as an ambassador for NFL Academy at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The league plays a minimum of two games per year in Tottenham, and Smith-Schuster and a handful of NFL players are coaching and teaching hundreds of teenagers who want to learn the game through intensive training.
Turns out Smith-Schuster’s marketability and branding in the states carries overseas.
“I was surprised how many guys know me,” said Smith-Schuster about spending time in the city. “In the states people come up to me and show some love. But here, when I walk down the streets of the U.K. and they come up to me … It happened four, five, six times the first day here. They show so much love. It’s awesome.”
As Smith-Schuster has developed into a Pro Bowl receiver in two NFL seasons, his profile off the field has grown. He’s among the most active players on social media, his JuJu TV channel on YouTube has nearly 800,000 subscribers, and he’s turned a love for video games into marketing deals.
But Smith-Schuster’s focus in London is more personalized than that.
— NFL Academy (@NFLAcademy) July 2, 2019
“I want (the students) to see a guy who is super authentic, pretty much who gives back to the community and can help out a lot,” Smith-Schuster said. “To be out here with the kids and show them I care so much. They want to learn. I am able to show them I care about them and American football.”
Smith-Schuster said he spotted Big Ben in London and will snap a picture to show his Big Ben, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. But first he imparted his football wisdom to a large group. Smith-Schuster estimated more than 1,000 locals showed up to the Academy event.
“When they told me about this, I accepted right away,” Smith-Schuster said. “Giving back to the community, especially the young kids out here starting American football and teaching them at the NFL Academy and what (the game is) all about and being a part of it, it’s amazing.”