Former National Football League (NFL) star Cecil Martin made his way from college football to the NFL draft in 1999, when he joined the Philadelphia Eagles.

Advice | We caught up with former NFL star Cecil Martin as he visited the Essex Spartans American football team last week. (Image | Emma Webb)

Advice | We caught up with former NFL star Cecil Martin as he visited the Essex Spartans American football team last week. (Image | Emma Webb)

A spell on the practice team of the Oakland Raiders followed, before Martin made his first appearance for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and last in the NFL, in 2003.

Martin currently works across the United States as an advisor to high school student athletes, speaking about the college recruitment process on behalf of the National Collegiate Scouting Association.

Emma Webb caught up with the Sky Sports NFL analyst* as he paid a visit to the Essex Spartans American football team in Billericay last week:

How long have you been in the industry?

I first started playing football when I was around 12, playing flag football, and I loved playing flag football. That’s a great thing that I’m seeing around here in the UK, it’s a great way of starting kids off playing the game.

I played football again when I was in high school at about 15 years old. Then I was in the NFL for five years, I was in college football for five years before that, and I’ve been broadcasting football for 10 years, so if you do the maths there I guess I’ve been in the football industry … quite a long time! I’ve seen a lot of changes, a lot of positive changes in the game.

How important is it that young people with athletic aspirations have good role models in the industry, both on and off the field?

I think it’s vitally important. I think it’s as important for young people to look up to their teachers and the coaches and the firemen and policemen and those community people that are doing positive things. It’s so important to look up to those people.

At the same time having been a person that has played at the highest level, and doing Sky Sports, I take a responsibility in highlighting the importance of that. Growing up, the true role models weren’t the professional people I was watching on TV, it was the people that were right there in the community with me, that were actually talking to me and spending time with me. Only those guys could really get through to me, whether that was encouragement or a smack up here, you know, you need that sometimes.

There is a lot of diving and malingering in soccer right now. What do you feel about such unsportsmanlike behaviour as a spokesperson for a sport where players can take life-threatening hits?

I don’t get a chance to see a lot of it because a lot of the time, I’m Stateside, so I couldn’t really comment on what I think of it. But I guess I will say that first and foremost, as a former professional athlete I think we all just respect other guys in other sports that have all made it to that next level, and I don’t think we necessarily criticise if it looks like something that’s a little bit “off centre”.

Lauren Silberman recently became the first female to try out for the NFL. What opportunities are emerging for women in the NFL now?

I don’t know that there’s a lot of opportunity for women, but I know that coaching-wise there are women getting involved and that one kicker is definitely turning some heads. I see the game of football elevating with female involvement. There are leagues out there where women are putting the pads on and actually playing, both here and in America: It’s exciting to see.

As an American, how does it feel to see such an important part of your culture being embraced and enjoyed across the world?

It’s really great to see, and it’s also really great to see the passion with which young people are playing. In America a lot of the kids don’t know how good they have it.

So when I come over here, you have these young people, there’s not necessarily American football in the schools and having to be a part of a club and buy your own kit, it’s tougher. When they show up, for me it really turns my head and motivates me to want to do more for them.

* Our thanks to Cecil Martin for speaking to The Armchair Pundits, and reporter Emma Webb for conducting the interview.

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