An 18-year-old from Croydon made American football history last week.
Tyrese Johnson-Fisher is the first ever non-American to be selected to play in a match for the 100 best high school players in the world.
He was selected to play in the Under Armour All-American match in Florida after the selection committee saw a viral YouTube video – which received 2.5m views – of him scoring four tries at an U15 Schools Cup rugby semi-final.
A member of Leicester Tigers academy, he is also a national sprinting champion. His 100m time of 10.73 seconds is third fastest in the country for his age, and he described getting picked for the football game as one of the best feelings of his life.
“It just felt as if everything had been worth it and everything I had worked towards had just been for this one moment,” he said.
When selected he was a total football novice, but last week he was playing with the best players in the world for his age group.
“I was up against guys who would die for their sport – it was all they had,” he said.
“In England if we don’t make it the state can help us, but in America it’s different.
“When guys are fighting and they’ve got nothing to lose, they’re a lot harder to come up against. I learned a hell of a lot.”
Tyrese may have appeared out of his depth compared to some of his team-mates on paper, but he held his own on the pitch.
In Friday’s match, his team – Team Spotlight – lost narrowly to Team Highlight 23-21, and his performances have already attracted attention from US colleges.
Coastal Carolina made Tyrese a scholarship offer, and two other colleges have invited him to visit.
Despite his successes in multiple sports, Tyrese remains humble, refusing to let himself get carried away as he pursues his dream of playing in the National Football League.
“I’m in a situation where I don’t think I’m able to dream about which college I go to,” he said.
“I’m thankful to anyone who is willing to invest their time in me, and I’ll take it step by step from there.
“My end goal is to get to the League. I don’t care who I play for, I just want to play.”
Born and raised in Croydon, south London has played a big role in his development as an athlete and a man.
“You can’t choose where you’re from, you’ve got to embrace it,” he said.
“I love being from Croydon, and Croydon has helped me become humble and hungrier.
“As a block boy in Croydon, you know how difficult it is to leave. It gives you that motivation to fight, and put your life on the line in order to make it.”
A member of Croydon Harriers Athletics club since 2013, the club have helped turn him from a special talent to a decorated athlete.
Paul Weston, Tyrese’s team leader at the Harriers, said: “Tyrese is a great young man.
“He has excelled in athletics and rugby and is now using that skill set to take on American football – not an easy transition.”
Croydon Harriers wished Tyrese all the best in his endeavours, and he has not forgotten what the club has done for him.
“Paul told me, ‘I want you to make it. It doesn’t matter what sport, I just want you to make it,’” said Tyrese.
“I won a national title by training with Croydon. If I hadn’t won a national title, it wouldn’t have created the pathway to the platform I’ve got right now.
“I couldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t run for them.”
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