Superbowl LI to bring back memories of former Atlanta Falcons star from St Albans
- Credit: Archant
When Atlanta Falcons step out at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, against New England Patriots for just their second Superbowl appearance, spare a thought for one of their former players and a trailblazer of the game – who just happened to come from St Albans.
The multibillion dollar NFL has long been regarded as the toughest major professional sports league for non-US players to break into.
But back in the eighties, Mick Luckhurst did just that, and he is still to this day the most the successful Briton to play in the league.
Born in Redbourn in 1958, he attended St Columba’s College on King Harry Lane where his sporting prowess in Basketball, Rugby and Football (soccer as they would call is stateside) led him onto what is now the University of Hertfordshire to undertake a teaching degree in PE.
During his studies, Luckhurst was offered a one-year study exchange to St Cloud State University, where he was then transferred to Division One college University of Southern California.
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There he excelled as part of the national title-winning rugby team, along with becoming the place kicker for the highly ranked Southern Cal Bears college football team.
Playing in front of crowds of over 100,000 spectators, he broke the Southern Cal college record for its longest ever field goal of 54 yards.
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Luckhurst became an NFL prospect after his college graduation with teams looking for his much needed reliability in their point scoring.
He made his professional debut with the Falcons for the 1981 season and often joked he was one of only 28 people in the whole of the USA working as a professional placekicker.
Luckhurst went on to have a six-year career with the Falcons and was highly regarded during his tenure as being one of the league’s most accurate field goal kickers.
He was the Falcons’ all-time leading point scorer with 558 points, a record he held for over 10 years until it was beaten by Morton Andersen in 2000.
Among that points haul was a rushing touchdown, scored from a fake field goal in 1982, a statistic which marks him as the only true born and bred British player to score an NFL touchdown.
Following his retirement from the game, Luckhurst went on to front the Channel 4 coverage of the league during the early 1990’s and now runs several successful businesses based in the UK and USA where he splits his time, along with this wife and five children.
The path that Luckhurst helped forge for foreign import players has allowed people like Manchester-born Menelik Watson, who plays with Oakland Raiders, and London pair Jack Crawford (Dallas Cowboys) and Jay Ajayi (Miami Dolphins) to make the step.
And with these British players making their mark on the league, how long will it be before a British player lifts the Lombardi trophy in the biggest game of all?
If one does, a little piece of it will belong to Mick Luckhurst and St Albans.