|15th September 2004
Menlo College Varsity Team 53-15 GB Bulldogs
The British are coming. Not Redcoats or Beatles, but the Great Britain
Bulldogs, an all-star team of English college students who play American football.
The Bulldogs take on Menlo College in an exhibition game
Saturday at 1 p.m.
These guys don't take breaks for tea. There's no talk of
bangers and rashers unless it's in the context of banging around the opposition. The
players are psyched at the opportunity to take on the genuine article -- an American
"This is the biggest game in Bulldogs history, by
far," Bulldogs lineman Tarquin Stephenson, a 6-foot-3, 390-pound two-way player, said
after a practice Wednesday at the Menlo campus. "It's getting everybody
American football has a longer history in England than one
might think. It dates to the end of World War II when American servicemen introduced the
local populace to the game.
It caught on in a bigger way in the 1980s with a push from the NFL and
its global marketing arm. The exhibition between the Chicago Bears and the Dallas Cowboys
at Wembley Stadium had a big impact. Three NFL games are shown live on television now each
Currently there are 32
colleges that play football. Offenses run the gamut from the
wishbone (Hull) to the run and shoot (Southampton).
But the atmosphere that accompanies the games is far
different from the passion associated with the American collegiate game. Stephenson
estimates that 50 to 60 fans typically show up for a game.
"Soccer dominates the whole country," Bulldogs
coach Graham Thorpe said.
But that doesn't diminish the enjoyment the players get out
of the game.
"Football is the best team sport in the world,"
Stephenson said. "Eleven on the field, 11 playing together to achieve one goal and
execute as a unit. We're a family with team spirit who do everything together. And we
party like rock stars."
Most of the players come to school in September never having
played before. Four weeks later they're playing their first varsity game. There's no
structured youth program in the country.
Still there's plenty of raw talent with 32 colleges playing
football in a country the size of Texas.
Robert Hart is a former member of the Bulldogs who has had
some success playing football in this country. Hart, a kicker, played for Murray State and
has had NFL tryouts with Miami, Tampa Bay and New Orleans. Thorpe says he has four players
on this year's team who are good enough to get a shot with an American college team:
quarterback Jonathan Baynham, running back Jason Prince, lineman Tom McKenzie and wide
receiver Jonathan Gerring.
"Giving these guys an opportunity is what's
important," Thorpe said. "I believe they need to get here to develop any
further. I need to get them to the next level. If we can win a few games, that's
The Bulldogs started their summer tour with a loss to Team
Canada before blowing out Team Ireland 63-9.
They showed up in the Bay Area on Sunday and scrimmaged the
Oaks on Monday. Menlo jumped out to a 34-0 halftime lead in that contest, but the Bulldogs
were heartened by a competitive showing in the second half when they were outscored just
"That was our toughest game, and we didn't show up until
the second quarter," Thorpe said. "Our brain hadn't switched on. We have a
little bit of unfinished business. We didn't show what we could do."
After playing Menlo the Bulldogs will go to the Raiders game
Sunday, then fly back to the United Kingdom on Monday.
"Whether we win or lose is irrelevant," Thorpe
said. "What's important is if we can walk off the field feeling we did the best we