The Blog

Pronouncing Names and Making History - Behind the Scenes at the NFL Draft in London

Last weekend the American Football team Jacksonville Jaguars announced two NFL Draft picks live from London - the first time a city outside of the US has ever been involved - and as my agency, Fast Track, look after the Jags' UK PR and social media we were on hand to support.

The life of a sports PR is an interesting one. You can share a beer with a sporting legend or wear a stifling mascot costume in August - both completely true.

And very rarely you get to be a part of history being made.

Last weekend the American Football team Jacksonville Jaguars announced two NFL Draft picks live from London - the first time a city outside of the US has ever been involved - and as my agency, Fast Track, look after the Jags' UK PR and social media we were on hand to support.

The NFL Draft is broadcast to tens of millions each year as the best young players from college are selected by the 32 franchises over seven rounds and three days. It is heavy on double-speak, smokescreens and politicking as the managers jostle for the players they want through trades.

The first two days had gone smoothly for the Jaguars but for day three a UK fan, George, was to announce the picks live from the Trickbox TV studio opposite Tower Bridge. To say he was nervous was an understatement.

Most of our day is spent trying to keep poor George relaxed. Apparently being broadcast live to 40 million people on Sky Sports News and the NFL Network can be a nerve-wracking prospect. He is especially concerned over the Jaguars selecting Ifo Ekpre-Olomu - for obvious reasons.

Jaguars fans are milking the tension of the draft at a fan party in a bar around the corner. Sky Sports' Neil Reynolds puts George through his paces with some mock draft announcements on stage before we set off to the studio.

As the clock ticks over to 9pm I settle down with the rest of the team in our own 'war room' with key representatives from the Jaguars and NFL UK along with a roaming camera crew, the studio manager and others. The room is a hive of activity with the Draft on the big screen and mounds of burgers, mac and cheese, chips and fizzy drinks keeping the team going in that typically American way.

But everyone's ears are tuned into the speakerphone countdown as we hear each team's two minutes 'on the clock' as they make their draft selection. We keep note of the trades and deduce that George is up in 30 minutes.

Deals are made and young men have their dreams made by being drafted to each team's roster. Former Jaguars defensive tackle Marcus Stroud is with us and offers some expert opinion on the young guys being drafted. The excitement around the office is palpable as we wait for the call. Then the speakerphone announces...

"Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Go Jacksonville."

We're up. The room falls deathly silent as we listen for the call to come through from Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell on who the lucky man is going to be. NFL UK's Leah is designated the person with the best handwriting and is manning the phone to receive the call.

Marcus and George leave the war room and head for the television studio in a neighbouring room to await their big moment. Behind them, night falls and Tower Bridge glows pink in the background as it illuminates in a suitably feminine colour scheme to celebrate the birth of the royal baby. After a long, tense two minutes the call comes through.

"Hello London - are you ready for this?"

We are.

"The decision has been made that with the 180th pick of the 2015 Draft, the Jaguars take Michael Bennett, defensive tackle from Ohio State. Please confirm you have that?"

We do.

And with that Leah writes out the selection on the card and a runner dashes the relevant details to the studio for George to make history. The studio door closes and we hear muffles of activity. Due to the time delay with the US, George exits the studio just as his announcement goes live on the NFL Network TV broadcast. He nails it to a huge cheer in the war room and for the first time the colour comes back into George's cheeks. There are smiles around the room as we all delight in our roles in making a piece of NFL history.

Monmouth wide-receiver Neal Sterling is announced as the next pick 90 minutes later before the final pick comes through to Leah as Ben Koyack, a tight end from Notre Dame.

"How do you pronounce his second name.....Ok, got it....guys it is pronounced kayak, like the canoe."

The card is whisked away to the studio to complete a good job well done and the countdown to broadcast begins over the speakerphone.

"15 seconds until broadcast London"

"Wait, is it definitely pronounced kayak?"

"Correction, London, it is pronounced Koyack. Koy is like boy."

We're heading for our own 'Brett Favre' moment (NFL Legend Brett Favre, pronounced Farve, was announced as Brett Favour when he was drafted). No one wants to be remembered as the Brits who can't speak 'American' and also ruin poor Ben's big moment as he is announced as a paddle boat.

Luckily our social media manager is quick over 50 metres and sprints to the studio with seconds until broadcast. As we all hold our breath George shows up on screen pronouncing Koyack perfectly and even putting a lovely British twang on 'Notre Dame'. Job done.

And with that the texts and emails start arriving from Jacksonville congratulating everyone on a great job. Beers are cracked open and we celebrate a fantastic experience for everyone and the start of what we're all sure is going to be a special year with the Jacksonville Jaguars on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have committed to playing one home game a season in London since 2013. This year they face the Buffalo Bills at Wembley Stadium on October 25. Follow us @JaguarsUK on Twitter and sign-up to the free Union Jax fan club at