Jason Bell, Quincy Williams and Tremaine Edmunds on flag football's growth

By Andy Davies

When it was announced that the 2028 Olympic Games will feature flag football, this represented the most significant step for the growth in the sport.

Not only does it impact the sport of flag football, but also American Football as a whole. Just like the 1992 Barcelona Olympics made everyone aware of basketball on a global scale, the games in four years’ time have every potential to do the same.

On Thursday 7th March ahead of International Women’s Day, the New York Jets and Chicago Bears were in the UK to host an event that brought together 260 girls aged 12-14 to give them an immersive flag football experience and hear from high profile players from both the Jets and Bears as well as prominent figures from NFL UK.

This included Jason Bell, Jets linebacker Quincy Williams and Bears linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. I went down to the event and got the chance to interview all three.

Jason Bell: “This is great and this is an opportunity to showcase this game across the globe”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 17: Australian Gridiron player Cayden Close poses for a photo with Wade Kelly (L), CEO of Gridiron Australia, on the announcement of new program sports for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic games during a media opportunity at Museum of Contemporary Art on October 17, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images for the AOC)

“Looking at them down there, cheering, this is going to be a great day for them”, said Bell at the event.

“I’m so thankful that the two teams invested in this, coming out here to make a change in all these young girls lives because getting exposed to this game. It’s changed my life and it’s done so many things for me and I hope it does for all these girls.”

The aforementioned impact of the 1992 Olympics on the global appeal of basketball will be hoped to be echoed by the introduction of flag football at the 2028 Olympic Games. Jason spoke of the impact it will have not only on the grassroots level but also globally.

“Huge, it’s all about exposure. So many different skill sets, so many different body types, so many opportunities, so you just need to play.  That’s how you become lifelong fans and how you get the benefits that sport brings. It’s all about getting out there and having a good time.”

“I’m from Los Angeles, California so this is great and this is an opportunity  to showcase this game across the globe.

“Every country is going to try and participate and get their best athletes and get them on the field and that’s the key. We know the NFL is hard to play but flag football is accessible to everybody, I can’t wait. I can’t wait to see the US Flag Football team and who we get out on that field, because we’d better win.

“When you think about it, all these players from across the globe, they can go and participate for their country even if they play in the NFL. It’s going to be some stiff competition but it’s going to be a good time.

“I’m so glad flag football has this opportunity”.

Quincy Williams: “This is a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to actually coming back here”

WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 07: Quincy Williams of the New York Jets poses as the New York Jets and Chicago Bears expand girls flag league ahead of International Women's Day at The Cherry Red Records Stadium on March 07, 2024 in Wimbledon, England. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images for the New York Jets & Chicago Bears)

NFL linebacker Quincy Williams has been in London before, as the Jets lost to the Atlanta Falcons at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Williams was excited to be experiencing the UK’s capital properly for the first time.

“I love it, especially getting the chance now to be around the city and things like that and actually running into people that’s in the UK and the fans that we have here. I didn’t know we had this many fans though. It’s a lot of fun and then also just the expansion of it really, just to play for a game, I think Jacksonville play all the time.  This is a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to actually coming back here”.

“So I just got here yesterday, I actually went to a soccer facility named Chelsea. I’m actually going to a Chelsea game Monday, so it’s going to be a lot of fun. We haven’t actually been here, we just got here yesterday. Tomorrow is our travel day, I am actually going to get on the public transit, the big red bus.

“I like art, there’s a lot of museums here, a lot of agriculture and things like this. It’s going to be a lot of fun”.

Williams also spoke of the impact the 2028 Olympics will have on the growth of American Football around the world.

“The biggest thing is me being here, giving pointers to the girls, things like that. Tremaine is also here doing the same thing. The biggest thing is having those girls confident in themselves, saying when the 2028 Olympics come that they can play in that. It starts today when girls of all athletic abilities and things like that, you get coaching from different coaches and also get pointers from players, so you have that confidence when you leave today that you can play this game.

“We started with eight teams in London, now we are up to 30 teams with different boroughs. It is already expanding but we want to expand it even more. The start of it is flag football. You get the fundamentals of the game and then if you want to level up to tackle football, you can, the only difference is the actual talent.

Finally, Williams was vocal about what impact doing multiple sports as a youngster helped him to become an NFL player.

“Football wasn’t my first sport, I was a swimmer first, but it helped me on the field. Track helped me on the field as well. If they don’t want to play football after today, it helps them play sports period, it also helps in life too because you’re building life skills and most of my best friends, I came with them playing football. There’s other things they can do if they don’t want to play, they could even coach.”

Tremaine Edmunds: “Just trust yourselves, trust your instincts, go make a play”

CLEVELAND, OHIO - DECEMBER 17: Tremaine Edmunds #49 of the Chicago Bears waits for the snap during the second half against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 17, 2023 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

Bears linebacker Tremaine Edmunds also gave his take on the important of the 2028 Olympics on the growth of flag football.

“I think it’s going to be affected in a positive way, just because a lot of people want to play the game, they just don’t have the opportunity to play it. As you touch each and every country, more and more people can get involved.  I think the growth for our sport, the love for our sport, the passion for our sport, will just continue to grow because more people can get involved and more can display their talents.”

Edmunds also spoke of his excitement to be in London for the first time ahead of the Bears’ home game in the capital during the 2024 NFL season.

“I’m excited. This is my first time here and I am having a ball. I can only imagine how game day is going to be. Just seeing the love out here, seeing the passion everybody out here has, it is going to be a good time

“Anybody will be good (to play), just because we’re playing in London there’s nothing like it”

Finally, Edmunds gave tips for any aspiring linebackers. He also picked his dream three linebackers from current or past NFL history to play alongside him.

“Just trust yourselves, trust your instincts, go make a play.

“Ray Lewis was my favourite player growing up, so I’ve got to go Ray Lewis. Obviously I have got to go Brian Urlacher. I’m a Chicago Bear. There’s so many great linebackers out there, I am going to go Patrick Willis.”

To learn more about the initiative, please visit www.chicagobears.com/girls-flag-football and https://nyjetsinuk.com/girls-flag

Feature Image Credit: Sport Industry Group