A 17-year-old from Loudwater will spend the next two years in Florida following a lifetime ambition to make it to the NFL.
Dennis Burgess has been handed a two-year stay at Venice High School – and before you scoff at the prospect of crossing an ocean to play high school sport, it’s worth noting that in America it’s valued slightly higher than here.
Stadiums larger than Adams Park regularly sell out for inter-school matches and in terms of quality, a US high school team recently thrashed the senior GB American Football team 76-0.
It’s certainly not small fry, and if Burgess does well a route to an American university and then the NFL could open up before him.
He said: “I know a few people in Miami already so I can’t wait. I hope to make it to college and then the NFL, that’s the dream.”
Burgess began life playing rugby for RGS High Wycombe and High Wycombe RUFC, but his love was always American Football and joining Marlow Wolves two years ago lit the litmus paper.
National championships and international call-ups followed almost immediately, with Wolves coach Sam McKee lavishing praise on the line backer/punter.
He said: “He’s brilliant. He’s one of the best we’ve ever coached, if not the best.”
Burgess earned his American move following a two-week conditioning trial in Miami, and it’s no surprise he came through the physical assessments with flying colours; he is already a local legend after his exploits in the gym.
He said: “When I was 15, 16 I held all sorts of records at The Oaks Gym. I could bench press 190kg, squat 240kg and dead lift 250kg.”
Burgess isn’t the only Wolves player branching out however.
Eddie Ntahira and Eric Sjostedt have both earned places at the long-established American Football academy in Bristol, Filton [Burgess turned down an offer in favour of a move to Venice High School].
American scouts regularly headhunt from there and last year five of their graduates won US scholarships.
McKee said: “Five years ago when we formed Marlow Wolves we said that within three years we wanted a team that was winning championships and players representing their country.
“Well, we’ve won five titles in four years and Dennis, Eddie and Eric are the first players to go on to bigger and better things.
“To us, that’s far more important than championships because we want players to think that if they want to make it the game, then our programme works.
“I can’t say how proud I am.
“But although we’re winning national championships and we have players playing for GB, nobody knows about us.
“We’re a bigger deal nationally than we are locally, and if it wasn’t for you [the Bucks/Marlow Free Press] nobody around here would have heard of us.”