Jermaine Eluemunor and the British Future of Football

1:14 | NFL
The NFL Salary Cap Explained
Wednesday May 17th, 2017

One thing we missed about the draft. One global thing. One sign-of-the-future thing. It’s rather amazing, really.

In the fifth round of the draft, with the 159th overall pick, the Ravens took a tackle from Texas A&M named Jermaine Eluemunor. He is an intriguing prospect. He is from London. He never heard of American football until he was 12. And he never played the real thing, tackle football, until his family moved to New Jersey when he was in high school. He started one season of college football.

But this is what makes this story interesting:

This is the 10-year anniversary of NFL playing regular-season games in England. The first was on Oct. 28, 2007, a Giants-Dolphins game at rainy Wembley Stadium. In a northwest London suburb, a 12-year-old boy searched on his TV for an English Premier League game. He came across this other sports event, a sport he’d never seen before, on that gloomy afternoon.

“Everyone was blowing each other up,” the boy, now a man, recalled to The MMQB’s Emily Kaplan for SI.com’s audio series “Draft Season” this spring. “I’m like, ‘Oh, what is this?’”

London-born lineman Jermaine Eluemunor was drafted in the fifth round by the Ravens.
Eric Christian Smith/AP

The boy, Jermaine Eluemunor (pronounced “eh-LOO-mih-nore”), was partial to rugby, but also played soccer and a little cricket. He began playing flag football and later, when his family relocated and young Jermaine was enrolled at Morris Knolls (N.J.) High, he really got into football. And that led Eluemunor to where he is today: a prospect to be a future starter on a Baltimore offensive line that plays lesser prospects. Last year the Ravens started first-, third-, third-, fourth- and fifth-round picks across the offensive line.

So Eluemunor is the first British kid who, quite literally, the NFL can claim is in the league because of the games played in London. Including the four scheduled for this season, 20 of the 21 regular-season games played in England in the 11 seasons since 2007 will have been sellouts. Whenever I write about the future of the NFL and include the extreme likelihood that one day there will be a franchise in London, there is a rash of anger about exporting one of the 32 teams overseas in a league that already is enormously successful. I’m not justifying a team in London, nor am I saying it’s an idea without flaws (because there are many). I am saying it’s likely to happen sometime after the NFL’s new labor agreement is in place sometime in 2021, barring a work stoppage.

• TEN THINGS I THINK: Emily Kaplan on career breaks, Hard Knocks and position battles

There’s evidence that exporting the game is leading to more kids playing it overseas. And now there’s the story of one kid flipping the TV channels one day and seeing a game in the big soccer stadium just down the road, and taking it up, and ending up, likely, as one of the league’s 1,696 active players in 2017.

This week, on my new podcast released Wednesday morning, you’ll be able to hear the NFL’s vice president for international development, Mark Waller, explain the impact of Eluemunor being drafted by the Ravens … and Waller’s prediction of the most likely time frame for a team playing in London.

Now for your email...

• ‘COLIN IS GETTING READY AS IF HE’S A STARTING QB’: Peter King talks with Kaepernick’s trainer about the free agent’s desire to keep playing

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Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned, more than two months after opting out of the final year of his contract with the 49ers.
Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

ON KAEPERNICK, PT. 1

I'm really interested why you are making so much noise for teams to hire Colin Kaepernick. In reading Andy Benoit's article, it seems that teams had figured out what he does well and game-planned to the point that he became ineffective. What's changed since Andy's excellent article? Not a lot that I can see. So what are you seeing other than a well-known name that's making you champion him as a QB?

—Richard Y., Camberley, England

We’re talking about bringing in a 29-year-old guy with 75 career starts—who was one end-zone completion from winning a Super Bowl four years ago—as a backup quarterback. Ask Andy to do a similar treatment of Brian Hoyer, Mark Sanchez, Drew Stanton, Bryce Petty, Colt McCoy, Matt Moore, Kellen Moore, Dudley Moore … okay, you get the point. But what’s happened is 31 NFL teams basically decided they didn’t want Kaepernick before ever talking to him or considering him as a backup. Why is that?

ON KAEPERNICK, PT. 2

I'm just curious, Mr. King, why you've taken it upon yourself to help Kaepernick get a job? Last I checked, in this country, employers still have a say in who they wish to employ and apparently no NFL teams so far have wished to employ Kaepernick. That's life, actions have consequences, and we know the actions and statements he's made. Apparently NFL teams have decided that the trouble of having Mr. Kaepernick on their roster exceeds the benefits. The question you should be asking yourself isn't "Why aren't NFL teams offering Kaepernick a contract?", but rather "What reasonable NFL GM would?"

—John G.

Many share your opinion, John. I’m just asking a fairly common sense question: In a league in which Bryce Petty and Trevone Boykin and Brandon Weeden and Blaine Gabbert have jobs, it seems to me that Kaepernick would be worthy of being one of the 90 employed quarterbacks in football in 2017, warts and all.

NO JETER?

First off, I have been a reader of your weekly column for a very long time. I look forward to it every Monday morning. I have read a ton of books and articles that you recommend and always look forward to more. I'm always interested in the other side of things when you write about issues outside of football. How do you not touch on the retiring of the number 2 in the Bronx! As a Red Sox fan, I thought you would wax poetic about the battles with Nomar, Papi, Pedro, etc. Disappointed, but I still will keep reading!

—Jeb B.

Definitely my fault, Jeb, and thanks for the kind words. This week, I finished my column on midday Saturday because I had plans on Sunday, and the Jeter ceremony didn’t enter my consciousness until I saw it on TV Sunday night. I would have sent in an addition to the column and should have, but just didn’t. I have shared my opinion about Jeter several times in my columns: I think he’s the best all-around player of my adult lifetime. I have gotten ridicule over that point, but I believe that because of everything about him: his bat, his glove (not Vizquel-like, but better than most over his career), his clutch play, his willingness to always sell out to make great things happen, for his being the consummate leader (to the point that Cowboys coach Jason Garrett visited Yankees camp a few years ago mostly to get an audience with him to discuss leadership), and for his being that cliché I used to hate but feel it’s warranted with him. He’s a winner.

BILLS QB OF THE FUTURE

I enjoy the column and appreciate all you and your staff do. I had a “nuts and bolts{ question regarding the Sean McDermott/Brandon Beane interview and was hoping you would be willing to provide some insight. I have no clue what it takes to do your job and I'm asking this with sincere respect. When you asked if the Bills QB of the future was on the roster, Sean McDermott answered, “I’m not sure there is a team out there that has the depth that we do at the quarterback position. So we feel good about that.” First, were you at all tempted to follow up with an “excuse me?” Second, Beane immediately followed with an answer that sounded anything but committed to Taylor. This seemed surprising considering further on in the article you point out that they will be joined at the hip.

—Jake, Wisconsin

Both interesting questions. Perhaps I should have challenged McDermott on the first one, because there’s no way anyone outside the city limits of Buffalo would feel the Bills have the best quarterback depth in football; it’s possible that, say, Nathan Peterman will be excellent insurance as a third-stringer this year. But now? You’re right. That begged for a follow-up. I think Beane’s point was that no one has a job sewn up, and he’s right.

• MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK: Peter King on the new leadership team in Buffalo

MILWAUKEE LOVE

Just wanted to say thanks for the shout-out to Milwaukee in the Monday column. Many of us who call the Milwaukee area home think it’s underrated. I loved your rundown of your experience at Miller Park, and the fact that you called out the Iron Horse Hotel, Colectivo, Lakefront and Hinterland shows you have excellent taste! Thanks for shining some attention on our city!

—Brett B., Franklin, Wisc.

Adam Duerson, an editor at SI, hails from MKE. I told him this week, “What a city you’ve got!” I really enjoyed my quick trip there. It’s the kind of place many mid-size cities are turning into—cool spots with lots of fun places like the Iron Horse and Miller Park, with all the local beer and good sight lines. Milwaukee is making the kind of strides that will make it a place I’ll want to visit regularly. The Third Ward is a spot I try to stop in for a meal during my training camp trip each summer.

LIFELONG HEALTH CARE

The NFLPA would be wise to negotiate lifelong health care in the next round CBA talks, even if it means giving up as much as 10% of the pool of money that funds the salary cap. If every contract of $10 million/yr, $5 million/yr and $1 million/yr adjusted to $9 million, $4.5 million and $900 K, the players earning those amounts would still get along just fine in the short-to-mid term (long-term financial well-being is on each player). But the peace of mind that would come with knowing that their health care was covered for life would, I would think, free up players to enjoy the game they love with one less major concern.

—Steve T., Peoria, Ariz.

What a great idea, Steve. Thanks for bringing it up.

HERNANDEZ’S VACATED CONVICTION

I see that Mr. King objects to the vacating of Aaron Hernandez’s conviction as a “gross miscarriage of justice.” There is an old saying in law: Hard cases make bad law. This may be a “hard case” that would make bad law, but let me explain why those laws are in place: in this country, one is innocent until proven guilty. Further, defendants in criminal cases have the right to appeal their convictions. Some states, not all of them, apply the presumption of innocence as follows:

1. Because defendants are innocent until proven guilty, and

2. Because defendants have a right to appeal their case,

3. A conviction is not “final” until an appellate court has reviewed the conviction and determined there are no irregularities with the conviction.

4. If a defendant dies prior to a case proceeding to jury, the charges are dismissed and the defendant has not been convicted.

5. Therefore, if a defendant dies before his appeal is completed, that conviction should be vacated because his conviction has not been reviewed and approved.

Reasonable people can and obviously do disagree regarding that law, but it is the law in several other states. That you disagree with its application in this case does not make the law idiotic or a gross miscarriage of justice. It just means that the law reached a result that you do not like.

—SMW

You can call it whatever you want to call it in the eyes of the law. I call it a travesty of justice.

THE JOHN LYNCH “24 HOURS” STORY

The Lynch article was the best one in your 24 Hours series, not only for the great details, but for that Moose Johnston anecdote. I'm the son of a blue-collar welder, and I know that I will never match my father's work ethic. But growing up, I saw that work ethic day in and day out. I know what he smelled like and looked like when he got home. Rise and grind was not a T-shirt slogan for him, but a reality of life.  And my life has been influenced and changed in countless ways from witnessing his daily work routine.  Moose is 100 percent right—children need to witness their fathers working, as a way of establishing a work ethic in children and showing them that life doesn't hand you anything. Great article. Keep up the good work.

—Craig S., Harlingen, Texas

Thanks to all for your positive reactions to our series, and to this story on Lynch. A note on why we’re doing these stories: Long pieces these days have to be pieces we know you’ll want to digest. And so the “24 Hours” series, we hope, will take you deeper into the people you know on the surface. We want you to read about their lives, and the nitty-gritty of their jobs. We are taking ideas, not just for players but for people in all walks of football life. Send to talkback@themmqb.com.

ON BUONICONTI AND KIICK

The stories by S.L. Price on Nick Buoniconti and Jim Kiick were indeed heartbreaking and well done. And maybe the 24-hour news cycle, the litigiousness of modern society and the sheer amount of money there is to be lost will somehow force the changes that need to be made. I won’t hold my breath, however. I have been reading SI for over 50 years, and I remember articles from the ’70s about the physical (not yet mental) deterioration retired football players had to put up with—about how they couldn’t get out of bed in the morning without six aspirin, about how getting through the day with anything less than debilitating pain was a victory. Well, 40 years on and little has changed. The NFL only reacts to problems when it has to. Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe that if the NFL could close their eyes, stick their fingers in their ears and have the whole CTE issue disappear, they would be happy. I still enjoy watching football, but feel guilty for doing so, and cringe every time I see a helmet hit. If I feel that way, after a lifetime of watching football, where is the next generation of football fans coming from?

—Rick C., New Orleans

That, Rick, is a question that should be on the minds of every employee of the NFL, and why it’s so important for Roger Goodell and the leaders of this game to spend ’til it hurts to make the game significantly safer for the next generation of players.

• Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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