Ex-team-mates helping to drive reformed King’s Lynn Patriots American Football Club
- Credit: Archant
American football's bright future in King's Lynn is closely linked to its former glories, as reporter Gavin Caney discovered.
The 61-year-old, born in King's Lynn but brought up in Amarillo, Texas, fell in love with American football while growing up in the US.
A move back to Norfolk in the late 1970s did little to quell Martin's passion for the hard-hitting sport. It's why he helped form the King's Lynn Royals in 1984, who later became the Patriots, and went on to play for other clubs in Norwich, Boston and Peterborough before and after the team he helped create folded just five years after its formation.
Yet those memories of playing gridiron in Lynn never faded for the man who is now a key part of the Patriots' second coming. And he's not alone with former team-mates of the original side, Jon Steward and Roy Scales, rolling back the years to pass on their expertise to the current crop of NFL wannabes.
Martin, assistant head coach of the Patriots who reformed in November, said: 'When I heard the club (Patriots) was going to fold (in 1989) I was disappointed but not totally surprised. I had already left.
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'I went on to play for other clubs before injuries forced me to give up. I wasn't the only one. Everything sort of quietened down a bit around Lynn but then I came across some guys practising at Gaywood last winter.
'These guys got it going again but they didn't have any coaches. They contacted Jon, unbeknown to me, and some other guys and it just all grew so fast. Back in the day we had a reputation as being one of the hardest-hitting teams. We didn't always win our matches, but teams certainly knew they'd played us. We're just trying to pass our experience and insight on.
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'Jon, Roy and I hadn't really stayed in touch massively but it's just been like old times. We developed a saying; 'once a Patriot, always a Patriot' and that's still the case. We might have gone on to play for other teams but our heart has always remained with King's Lynn.'
Head coach Steward and the duo have further enhanced Matt Stone and Jonny George's drive to reintroduce American football to the town. An average of 20-25 players have been training in the Walks' park on Sunday mornings with the club's renaissance set to reach new heights once friendlies, which are in the pipeline, have been arranged against Norwich Devils, Jurassic Coast Raptors and Berkshire Renegades this summer.
Hopes are high that next year the team will be able to enter a British American Football Association (BAFA) league next year.
'American football (around here) has picked up again after it went through a bit of a quiet patch. I think ever since the NFL matches started being played in London there's been a renaissance,' added Martin, who says King's Lynn Town Football Club have given the Patriots the green light to stage their home matches there next season.
'You can't describe the buzz you get from playing. It's an aggressive sport, that's controlled, and it makes you feel empowered. But it's great to be helping others play. Being involved again is a feeling that's hard to describe. You want it to do well and I think these players will.'
To get involved with the Patriots' 2015 select, contact Billy Martin on 07741257584 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org