Getting Into… American Football

The Aer Lingus College Football Classic hits Dublin this August, so we’ve put together a primer for new fans to brush up on their American Football knowledge.

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As a child, this writer’s dad took him to a college football game at the old Lansdowne Road. Boston against West Point. I’m not sure I expressed an interest but it was a formative event, mainly thanks to the kindly American couple who invited us to sit next to them so they could explain what was happening to us. Even on a grey day in Dublin in 1988, the spectacle was evident and a hook was sunk deep.

College football returns to Dublin this year, offering a new generation an opportunity to experience the thrill of a live match and develop a new obsession. Short of finding an American to explain it to you in real time, here’s our guide to getting a good grounding in American football.


Friday Night Lights

Eric Taylor Becomes Head Coach (Opening Scene) | Friday Night Lights

As good as the film is, you can skip it and go straight to the series, which ran for five seasons between 2006 and 2011. The show takes place in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, a place where football usurps all else. Coached with paternal gruffness by Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) the Dillon Panthers go through ups and downs, from catastrophic injuries to family crises. It’s an excellent way to get a basic knowledge of football through a show that’s more concerned with the drama surrounding it. Plus, it features the best ever depiction of a married couple in Eric and Tammy Taylor (Connie Britton).

Last Chance U

Last Chance U | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

This Netflix series is essentially the real-life Friday Night Lights, following the exploits of an American college that specialises in taking on talented players who have burned their bridges elsewhere. These are young men who have suffered in various ways and are mostly unaccustomed to the care and attention of academic advisor Brittany Wagner, utterly devoted in her mission to ensure the players stay in school and develop aspirations beyond the gridiron.

Any Given Sunday

Any Given Sunday (1999) Official Trailer - Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx Movie HD

Oliver Stone’s 1999 film is the Citizen Kane of sports movies. Starring Al Pacino as veteran head coach of the fictional Miami Sharks and Cameron Diaz as the team’s no-nonsense owner, it’s a remarkable look at the machinations on and off the field. With a director at the top of his game and a frankly ridiculous cast, it’s a must-see even if you’ve no interest in the sport.


Undefeated Official Trailer #1 - Academy Award Nominated Documentary (2011) HD

“Football doesn’t build character, football reveals character.” Oscar-winning documentary Undefeated is a true testament to the redemptive power of sport, especially in under-privileged communities. The Manassas Tigers are whipping boys, pure and simple, until coach Bill Courtney comes in to try and turn it around. His mission is more about the players than the result, making for an incredibly emotional film. One scene in particular will shatter the hardest heart.


Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team And A Dream by H.G. Bissinger

The true story that inspired both the film and the series is as much a look at small town America as it is about the sport but, in a way, that provides the perfect route into football and its role in American communities. Most people support their local or college side with the same passion as English people follow Liverpool or Manchester United, making for a fascinating dichotomy between local pride and immense pressure.

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis

Lewis’s book is the ultimate read for fans or old. Firstly, he delves into strategy and the development of the position of left tackle through the arrival of one dominant player: linebacker Lawrence Taylor. It sounds like heady stuff, but Lewis makes it utterly fascinating and accessible. The second strand to the book is the one that most people will know from the Sandra Bullock movie, following left tackle Michael Oher from his hardscrabble upbringing to the dizzy heights of the NFL.


The Pat McAfee Show

Former Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee hosts a podcast and YouTube show with regular guest A.J. Hawk, a former linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. The show runs the entire gamut of US sports but with a particular focus on football, given the hosts’ backgrounds.

The Irish NFL Show

The No.1 destination for Irish football fans, The Irish NFL Show has been running since 2020 and offers interviews, match previews and special episodes for draft weeks, the Super Bowl and more. Once you’re up to speed with the sport, this is an excellent next level to keep up with all the movers and shakers in the game. Check it out HERE.

Get to know the teams…

Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets represent the Georgia Institute of Technology, making Atlanta, GA their home. They’ve won four national championships, the most recent of which came in 1990 under former San Diego Chargers and Detroit Lions head coach Bobby Ross. There are currently 17 Georgia Tech alumni playing for NFL sides, including 2x time Super Bowl champion OG Shaq Mason and Pro-Bowl TE Darren Waller. Arguably their greatest ever alum comes in the form of Hall of Fame WR Calvin Johnson (affectionately dubbed ‘Megatron’), who holds the all time NFL single season receiving yards record with 1,964.

Florida State

The Seminoles represent Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida and will enter the 2024 College Football season as one of the top ranked teams, off the back of a 13-1 season. They have three national championships to their name, with Heisman trophy winning QB Jameis Winston leading them to their most recent triumph in 2013. Most recently, three Seminoles, EDGE Jared Verse, WR Keon Coleman and DT Braden Fiske, were selected in the top 50 picks of the 2024 NFL Draft. Of the 31 active NFL players that represented Florida State, 6 were selected in the 1st Round of the NFL Draft, including All-Pros CB Jalen Ramsey and S Derwin James Jr.

Aer Lingus College Football Classic

Georgia Tech face Florida State at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on 24 August 2024

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