American Football is a minority sport in Europe, but interest in the sport is increasing all the time. One of the reasons for this could be the NFL Europe - the annual spring league of American Football (backed by the NFL1) - consisting of six teams, located in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and the UK.
Formed in 1995, the Scottish Claymores was the only professional UK-based American Football team in the NFL Europe League (NFLE), after the London/England Monarchs franchise was moved to Berlin.
The Claymores played their home fixtures at Hampden Park Stadium in Glasgow, and had Hampden as their home venue since the final three games of the 2000 season. Before that, they played at Murrayfield, Edinburgh, which was thought of by many Claymores fans as 'the Home of (American) Football' in Scotland.
The team consisted of 48 players, at least eight of whom were what are known as 'national players'. These were players who had no connection to the NFL teams in the USA - they might have played at American colleges, but they did not live in the USA while playing for the Claymores. Some of the more famous national players will be listed below. The rest of the roster were players who had either been allocated to Europe by NFL teams, or had been drafted from a pool of players currently unsigned by any NFL teams. For the 2002 season, 60 players representing 16 different countries (including the UK, Italy, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Japan) tried to win one of 48 national player spots on the 6 NFLE team rosters.
The Claymores were a team consisting mostly of American players, who had been allocated to Europe to get more playing experience before getting a chance to play in the big league in the US. Because of this, the Claymores team roster tended to change dramatically before every season. Therefore, as is the case in all cities in Europe that host an NFLE team, loyalty to the team was appreciated by the fans. Returning players, often players that didn't get a chance in the NFL the year before, were greeted with a sometimes almost frantic enthusiasm by the fans.
The team started each season with a training camp that was held in Tampa Bay, Florida, USA in March - April where the players met many of their team mates for the first time. They then had a frantic training camp schedule where they had to get to know each other, as well as the coaches and the play books for the team, before going to Scotland a couple of weeks before the season starts.
The season itself was a ten-week affair where the six teams of the NFLE faced each other twice, home and away. Because of the short season, each game was vital to the team's success, as only the two teams with the best record reached the final game, the World Bowl.
After the end of each season, the players went their separate ways. They often wouldn't see each other again unless they met in training camp for one of the NFL teams, or if they were fortunate enough to get a roster spot on an NFL team and faced their former team mate as an opponent on the field.
Win Some, Lose Some
The success of the Claymores varied during the team's period in the NFLE. The team's first season ended with a disappointing 2-8 record2, but the very next year, 1996, their fortunes turned and they went all the way to the World Bowl, which they won in front of almost 39,000 roaring fans at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh.
Following the success of World Bowl 1996, the expectations were high for the 1997 season, but the Claymores would not make another World Bowl appearance until four years later, in 2000.
The 1997 season ended with a 5-5 record, and the team slipped even further during the 1998 season when they finished with a 2-8 record.
In 1999, the Claymores fans thought that the team would go all the way after winning three of the first four games. In the end, they only won one more game out of the six remaining, finishing with a 4-6 record.
The 2000 season saw the Claymores returning to the big game as they finished the season with a 6-4 record and a place in the World Bowl with the chance of returning the trophy to Scotland. However, these dreams were quashed in the dying moments of that game as a would-be game-tying field goal sailed wide left, leaving the Claymores the runners up in the league and the Rhein Fire the winners (the game ended 13-10 in favour of the Rhein Fire).
Before the 2001 season, the team got a new head coach. This season they struggled to a 4-6 record.
Trying to rebound from the 2001 season, the team looked strong before the 2002 season, but the team failed to live up to the high expectations of the fans and finished with a 5-5 record.
Former Claymores Greats
Jim Criner - Head Coach
Coach Criner was the head coach of the Claymores from their inaugural season in 1995 until after the 2000 season. He brought the team to two World Bowls (1996 and 2000) of which they won one (1996). He was voted into the Claymores Hall of Fame during the 2001 poll after the fans had demanded it.
Scott Couper - Wide Receiver
The longest serving national player for the Claymores. Couper (called 'Dr Scoups' by his team mates, because of his PhD in Organo Metallic and Polymer Chemistry) played wide receiver3 for the Claymores from the team's inception in 1995. He retired after the 2001 season, with over 1,000 yards receiving and ten career touchdowns. This future Claymores Hall of Famer then worked for the Claymores front office, trying to promote the game of American Football to the schools in and around Scotland.
George Coghill - Safety
Coghill played safety4 for the Claymores from 1995 to 1997. He is one of only 12 NFLE players, and the only former Claymore, to have won both the World Bowl and the Super Bowl. A standout defensive and special teams player, he was voted into the Claymores Hall of Fame in 1999 in recognition of what he achieved over three seasons with the Claymores. Prior to the 2002 season he was released by the Denver Broncos of the NFL, with whom he won the Super Bowl in 1997 as part of their practice squad.
Yo Murphy - Wide Receiver
Murphy played for the Claymores for two seasons (1996-97). He was named the World Bowl MVP5 in 1996, after catching seven passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns. He then moved to the St Louis Rams in the NFL, serving mainly as a kick returner and a third receiver. He was voted into the Claymores Hall of Fame in 2002.
Siran Stacy - Running Back
Stacy played running back6 for the Claymores during three seasons from 1995 to 1997, and then came back as a free agent in the 2000 season after being voted into the Claymores Hall of Fame in 1999. He holds a host of club records, and was a vital part of the team in their World Bowl season in 1996.
Rob Hart - Kicker
A former London/England Monarchs player who was signed by the Claymores in 1999 after the demise of the Monarchs. Hart has an impressive streak of over 100 consecutive extra point kicks and holds the record as the club's all-time leading scorer. Originally from Southampton, England, he was signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL for their 2002 pre-season camp, but was subsequently released before the regular season started.
There are many former greats to pick from the past Claymores rosters, including Scotland's Gavin Hastings who played for the Claymores during the 1996 season. The aforementioned players are some of the favourites, that have undoubtedly left their mark on the Scottish fans.
In June 2003, the Claymores hosted the World Bowl at Hampden Park, Glasgow, the culmination of the 2003 season. There were many activities in Glasgow during the week leading up to the main event, relating to American Football and the Claymores.
In 2004, the Claymores franchise was discontinued when it was thought more lucrative to set up a new franchise in Germany. They were replaced by the Hamburg Sea Devils, who were reigning champions when NFL Europe shut up shop completely three years later.