Blair McTague, has had to swap his American football safety padding, for cushioning on an ankle ligament injury - but he’s also looking to swap his recently acquired Team GB bronze medal for a championship winner’s medal in a couple of weeks time.
The Polmont man proudly sported an award after ten days in Milan representing the UK Lions American Football team during an international tournament in the Italian city.
The competition saw teams from Italy, Serbia, the Czech Republic, Spain and Denmark battle with the Brits and although the Lions just failed to reach the final, they emerged victorious against the Czech Republic in Saturday’s third place play-off.
“It was a fantastic experience,” the 26-year-old told Heraldsport. “It was an honour to have been around the best coaches and athletes that this country has to offer in terms of American football.
“We played against Spain and Italy in our section and the other contained the Czech Republic, Serbia and Denmark.
“We were obviously disappointed not to make the final, but a Bronze medal in such a prestigious competition is not too bad a consolation.”
Blair has an HND in sports fitness from Forth Valley College and works at Grangemouth Stadium. He is one of only four Scots picked for the Lions’ squad of 48 - the other three also play with East Kilbride Pirates in the Bafa Nl Premier Division.
The league involves teams from the likes of Tamworth, Leeds, Bristol and Shefield and the middle-linebacker continued: “The sport is very family oriented, but it’s extremely serious for us on the pitch.”
He’s borne the brunt of it. Limping with an ankle injury sustained during the quarter-final win over Bristol Aztecs in the national league play-offs at the weekend, he’s been forced into flip-flops and fluffy slippers instead of trainers to ease the pain ahead of this weekend’s big match with London Blitz.
“There is a fair bit of travel involved during the season, but it’s all enjoyable and very competitive, hopefully we can continue to do well and reach the final in Leeds.” Travel has been a feature in Blair’s life since taking up the sport after a promising spell at golf. A few years ago he won a scholarship at McPherson College in the USA where he played for Kansas Bulldogs, but became homesick and returned to Polmont.
“That was another great experience,” he said. “We are a close family though, and I missed them, my girlfriend Claire and my mates here. My dad Brian introduced me to golf and I still play at Grangemouth, but I fell in love with football American style while at college and it’s been great for me. Playing in this international tournament in a beautiful city like Milan and representing Great Britain was a great honour.”
Blair was accompanied to Italy with dad Brian (former Camelon, Linlithgow Rose and Whitburn Juniors footballer), mum Anne, sister Kirsty and girlfriend Claire Dougherty and he continued: “I really appreciate their support. They come to most games during the season and on this occasion
“I want to thank my mum for her sponsorship. She owns the Cherry Tree Children’s Nursery at Beancross and the company met my expenses for this trip.”
Blair is not the only local American footballer for East Kilbride Pirates - which also includes former Falkirk and Stenhousemuir favourite Crawford Baptie’s son Neil - Ryan Hunter from Laurieston regularly joins him in the sport. Neither were involved with Blair at the European Championships though, which were won by Denmark.
“ Bronze was not the colour we wanted, but we will be back,” Blair added.
He’ll have to wait though, winning the championship could have moved GB into Group A which contestss next year, but he faces a wait until 2016 for another crack at the Euros.