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25 May 2007 PR 07/74

Run into Martin Johnson all day? Okay says Loughborough University American football player

Loughborough University American football player Dave Wood admits the match against the 1996 national champion Leicester Panthers in a charity game at Welford Rd, Leicester on Monday is just a little bit of daunting.

Wood, 24, is normally a middle linebacker (a defensive player) for the Loughborough Aces but is expected to play “both ways” for the Loughborough Aces in their match at the home of English rugby champions Leicester Tigers, to aid the Matt Hampson Trust.

It is this secondary role as a fullback (offensive player), where Wood will act as the lead blocker for the team’s running back, is that there is the high likelihood he could end up barrelling head first into the Panthers’ defensive end – England’s rugby World Cup winning captain Martin Johnson.

“Ah, yeah,” said a laughing Wood when asked whether playing against Johnson would be a daunting prospect. “Yeah a guy of his size, stature and reputation it will be interesting to see how he copes with a different sport,” he added.

Wood, who is a MSc in Sports & Leisure Management student, has played for the University since his first year at Loughborough – and like most of his team mates, American football was new to him when he arrived.

“I was actually a basketball player at school and that was the reason why I came to Loughborough,” said Wood.

“As I was queuing up for the AU (athletic union) during the freshers bazaar I saw the American football stand so I thought I’d give it a go.

“After one contact training session, that was me hooked and basketball went downhill. Loughborough was the most winning team in the history of British college football and it was good fun, had a good team atmosphere and I enjoyed it.”

Wood has appeared for British Students at the sport and played two games against an Italian senior men’s team and the Italian under-25 national side.

While the team had lost this year’s College Bowl to Bristol, Wood said their focus had shifted straight away to the match against the Panthers.

“We have been building up to this for the last couple of months and it is a chance for us to play in one of the biggest American football games in this country.

“We are quite a different team now from that which finished the season. We are allowed ‘The Dirty Dozen’ which is a group of former players coming back to play.

“After the College Bowl ended we just started looking forward to this game because it’s great to play a game on such a massive scale for us and a really good chance to raise some money for a really good cause.”

The Matt Hampson Trust was set up to aid former England under-21 prop, and Leicester Tigers’ Academy player, Matt Hampson, who was paralysed during a training session in 2005.

Kick-off for the match is at 3pm on Monday May 28. Tickets are £5 each and available from the Leicester Tigers ticket office.

– Ends –

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Notes for editors:

  1. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry and unrivalled sporting achievement.

    It is a member of the esteemed 1994 Group – a set of internationally recognised, research-intensive universities – and has a reputation for the relevance of its work. Its degree programmes are highly regarded by professional institutions and businesses, and its graduates are consistently targeted by the UK’s top recruiters.

    Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

    In the 2006 National Student Survey, the University gained a top five place, with nine out of Loughborough’s 23 departments topping their subject tables. Loughborough was also placed 6th in the 2007 Times Good University Guide and was named winner of the 2006 THES award for the UK’s Best Student Experience. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded five Queen's Anniversary Prizes – an achievement bettered by no other university

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