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University of Missouri

Students of the Game

Mizzou football’s International Student Day attracts about 120 students from all continents but Antarctica.

Tianyu Liu from China practices her agility during a football drill with coaching from former Tigers wide receiver Brad Ekwerekwu. MU students from every continent but Antarctica attended Mizzou football’s International Student Day to learn about the popular American sport April 28. Photo by Rachel Coward.

Like most red-blooded Irishmen, Liam Keegan grew up soccer-obsessed. As a teenager, the Dublin native played for the Lusk United Football Club. So when he arrived at Mizzou, he immediately joined an intramural team of international players.

Then Keegan decided he would embrace more popular U.S. spectator sports. He caught a St. Louis Cardinals game, took an interest in ice hockey and attended Mizzou’s International Student Day to learn about American football.

The April 28 event at the MU Sports Park hosted about 120 students representing every continent except Antarctica. Guests toured the weight room, attended a Football 101 seminar, participated in a Q-and-A with Tiger players and practiced on-field drills.

University sports are a much bigger deal here than in Ireland,” Keegan says. “It’s crazy to see a stadium, an arena and another complex just for training.”

The idea was the brainchild of Nicholas Wantabe, sport management professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. Brad Ekwerekwu, former Tiger wide receiver and current athletic department staff member, coordinated the minicamp.

You saw the love for football growing right in front of you,” Ekwerekwu says.

Keegan might not have a future on the gridiron, but he plans to start his own American tradition back home at an Irish pub.

Some of my friends from Ireland are at the University of Florida,” says Keegan, anticipating the Nov. 3 matchup between the Tigers and Gators. “We’re going to get together, have a party and be rivals.”