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The Sussex Thunder, an American football team based out of Brighton, huddles together before a fall training session. Photo by Daniel Shumake.

Men from all across England come to Brighton in order to play for the Sussex Thunder and fulfill their dreams of playing American football. Ages range from 18 to 47, but one thing remains the same: these players are passionate about the Thunder.

As an American, I am always so fascinated to watch other countries participate in the US’s national pastimes. Whether it’s American football, basketball, or even baseball, I delight in seeing the enthusiasm for sports I previously deemed nationally exclusive.

When I walked into the Falmer Sports Complex at University of Sussex, I saw enthusiasm everywhere. Music blasted on the speaker. Players danced around as they warmed up for training. Finding a frown was no easy task.

Head Coach Billy Walker gave his team a pre-training talk. His players yelled and slapped each other on the backs.

I spoke with Billy a month prior to the training session. In our talk, he referred to American football as a “melting pot” where all sorts of shapes and sizes of players could be found.

So, I asked different shapes and sizes why American football and why Sussex Thunder. Their answers differed slightly, but one constant remained for every player: this team felt like family.

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May 2024