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London-bound: De La Salle football to play this fall in U.K. How it happened, who’s the opponent?

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Justin Alumbaugh was at a Nike coaches summit last year when one of his former De La Salle football players, a higher-up in the athletic giant’s marketing department, mentioned that his group was looking for a high school team to play in London.

Wait … what?

Alumbaugh’s stunned reaction quickly turned to genuine interest.

“I love traveling and obviously I am deeply rooted in education,” said Alumbaugh, an English teacher. “I believe in educational athletics. He was like, ‘You’d go to London, Coach?’ I was like, ‘I would absolutely go to London. What do we need to do?’”

What started as a casual conversation between coach and former player became a reality on Wednesday when the NFL – as part of its international schedule release – announced that De La Salle will make a trip across the pond this fall to play the NFL Academy.

The game will be held on Oct. 8 – a Tuesday – at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

“What a unique opportunity,” Alumbaugh said. “You can’t pass something like that up. A lot of our guys haven’t even been out of state. I am sure some of our guys haven’t even been on a plane.”

The NFL Academy is an elite football developmental program for high school students based in the United Kingdom. The academy launched in 2019 but was unable to play until 2022 because of the pandemic.

Last season, NFL Academy routed a high school team from Brooklyn 35-0 and also defeated IMG Academy’s “B” team 31-14. IMG is a longtime Florida powerhouse that California Interscholastic Federation schools such as De La Salle are not allowed to play.

De La Salle worked with CIF and North Coast Section leaders to get the green light for the game overseas, which the Concord school said was only possible financially because of its partnership with Nike.

According to De La Salle’s news release, Nike “is funding the entire trip as part of its commitment to help kids reach their greatest potential.”

The itinerary is not quite set, but Alumbaugh said the team’s visit will include visits to sights such as Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament, a charitable event with the NFL Academy and an NFL game in London on the Sunday before the Tuesday high school game.

“There is going to be an educational aspect, there is going to be a charitable aspect,” Alumbaugh said, adding that he has talked about the trip with the Brooklyn coach whose team played NFL Academy last season.

“He said the only problem the kids had was the food,” Alumbaugh added, laughing. “The food was different. But that’s good for everybody.”

Though there have been whispers around De La Salle about a big football trip this fall, the school kept a tight lip until the official announcement.

Alumbaugh planned to meet with the team on Wednesday, the next step in a process that began when his former player, Zach Klaas, a lineman in De La Salle’s Class of 2007, mentioned the idea more than a year ago at the Nike coaches summit.

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