Last night at the behest of a few neighbors I hosted the inaugural TFG HuddleUp event. The challenge: Teach football to a group of newbies (including two Brits) anxious to learn about America’s most popular sport. Step 1: Emulate a Sunday spread – guac, veggie platter, beer, more beer. Step 2: Make sure to thoroughly go over basics like scoring and rules. This involved an unexpected amount of demonstration. Step 3: Recognize that the NFL is a complicated, everchanging maze where hashmarks, holding penalties and field goals vs. extra points can only hold a newbie’s interest for so long.
To avoid the 10-yard penalty we switched to important topics like what age can a kid safely play football, the NFL’s domestic violence problem and why Tom Brady doesn’t eat eggplant.
But I knew I needed to give these lovely people a deeper reason to care, to actually watch football. My first advice to anyone wanting to learn about the NFL is always to play fantasy. Catapulting into competition while having real human players to care about will offer a certain level of knowledge by osmosis with a heavy side of hoopla. So to prep my neighbors for the league they will now be starting next month, I introduced 10 players they need to know. Bear in mind, these are not necessarily the top 10 players in the NFL but players that are either uber talented and/or have some sliver of off the field relevance. This was a hard list to concoct and feel free to disagree with my selections. Just be nice.
- Tom Brady (New England Patriots quarterback: Five-time Super Bowl winner. Possibly the greatest quarterback of all-time. Overlooked when drafted and not taken until the 6th round. Still in his prime despite turning 40 this August. Says he wants to play until his mid-40’s. Eats a VERY strict mostly plant-based diet. And, of course, is married to Gisele.
- Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers quarterback): The best playmaker among quarterbacks. Has perfected the Hail Mary (a deep throw down the field into a crowd as time is winding down). Won the Super Bowl in 2011, most pundits believe he has the talent to lead the Packers to more. Dated and just broke up with Olivia Munn. His brother, Jordan, while a contestant on The Bachelor, revealed that Aaron stopped talking to his family in recent years.
- Colin Kaepernick (Free agent quarterback): Not an NFL roster right now, many believe because of he kneeled during the national anthem last year (to protest societal injustice in America). Kaepernick led the 49ers to a Super Bowl berth in 2012 but has regressed a bit since though most consider him far more talented than many QBs who have jobs. Kaepernick is one of the most polarizing figures the game has ever seen.
- Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver): Has had the most catches by a receiver in the past three years. Uber talented and superfast, Brown can dodge defenders on any part of the field. A bit of a troublemaker, though, he secretly filmed his coach speaking to the team (and calling the Patriots a**holes) during the playoffs last year.
- J.J. Watt (Houston Texans defensive end): Has been most dominant defensive player of last five years. But injured back last year and only played 3 games. Larger than life character who is constantly promoting himself workout out, attending charity events and just being manly.
- Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks quarterback): Scrappy quarterback who is dangerous with his feet. But lacks arm strength of other QBs. Notoriously focused on being a “brand” – he even gives his lineman holiday gifts that come from his sponsors. Big story over the summer about how members of Seattle’s defense resent Wilson.
- Marshawn Lynch (Oakland Raiders running back): Was a dominant runner with Seattle, and then retired in 2015 for no apparent reason. Unretired to play for his hometown Raiders. He said it was because he wants to give memories to the local kids before the team relocates to Las Vegas in 3 years. Interesting cat that is famous for avoiding the media. But world traveler who toggles between being philosophical and incoherent. Known for his addiction to Skittles.
- Odell Beckham Jr. (New York Giants wide receiver): While known for his amazing one-handed catch his rookie year (Google it), he has been a consistent touchdown machine. Beckham has at least 10 touchdowns in all three seasons in the NFL. Still maturing, though, and has run into issues picking fights with defenders (and sideline nets) and sulking on the sidelines.
- Ezekiel Elliott (Dallas Cowboys running back): Had a phenomenal rookie season, leading the league in rushing yards (1631) and almost breaking a longstanding rookie record. Is a complete runner reminiscent of the great running backs of old. But… the NFL has been investigating a couple of sexual assault accusations for over a year and could hand down punishment at any time.
- Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers quarterback): Known for his splashy attire and dabbing dance moves, Newton has had a topsy-turvy career. Was the NFL’s MVP in 2015, leading Carolina to the Super Bowl. But pouted and walked out of his press conference after the Super Bowl loss. Seems to always be embroiled in controversy, even when not warranted.