Feature on Sam Huxtable

Sam Huxtable-Football Player, Athlete

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Huxtable was the poster boy for the 2017 Welsh Varsity. Photo credit- Swansea University.

 

‘Hux is the best football player playing in Britain’ was the answer given by Gethyn Chadwick, a key Swansea Titans player, when asked about Sam Huxtable.

Sam Huxtable is one of the most renown names in British American Football. Hux, 22, is a dual threat quarterback that can force a defense to change their game plan entirely in order to stop him and his dangerous Swansea Titans offense. He shares similar attributes and a similar playing style to Louisville quarterback, Lamar Jackson.

Huxtable started his American Football career at the age of sixteen when he joined the Colchester Gladiators youth team. A colleague of Huxtable’s father, Tim Rowe, suggested that he should give American Football a try and with Sam being the adventurous person that he is, he leapt at the idea.

In his first session as a Gladiator, Huxtable was put at wide receiver and was simply told ‘Go, run as fast as you can and catch the ball’. From that point on, Hux never looked back. He fell in love with the fast and aggressive nature of American Football and it was the start of a highly successful football career.

Hux describes Rowe as being one of the key influences in his early football career but there is another interesting individual that he mentions when referring to his rise. During his time at the Gladiators, one of the coaches set him up with what would turn out to be one of the meetings of a lifetime. Huxtable travelled to London to meet with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Joe Montana. Hux says that meeting a star like Montana at such a young age really opened up his mind about the opportunities that the sport could bring.

Despite the many superb coaching influences in his life, Hux doesn’t attribute his success to coaches alone. “I do have to say that my parents as well influenced me…their will to make me and my sister happy just made me want to carry on”.

Interestingly, Huxtable’s American Football career isn’t just exclusive to Britain. During his gap year, Hux spent his gap year playing for Canada Prep Academy in St. Catharines, Ontario. Huxtable played in various positions for the team, including wide receiver, and became a special teams playmaker.

It isn’t just Huxtable’s past that makes his such an interesting character, his future is just as exciting. When asked about his hopes for this season with the Titans, Hux replied, “…I don’t know what to expect, my hopes are that we don’t lose another game… I can’t really predict anything at this point but we’ll work hard for it, the team always does’. Hux’s answer personified his humble nature but there was certainly an air of confidence in his hopes for the Titans hopes at a championship this year.

It will come as no shock to learn that Huxtable’s American football aspirations are not just limited to the Swansea Titans. His long-term goal in the sport is to play in the Canadian Football League and describes his time in Canada as being a large reason for this.  Hux’s admiration for the Canadian people and culture only fuelled his desire to play in the CFL.

With the way Huxtable is playing at the moment, the CFL is certainly not unreachable in his future. His excellent playing ability coupled with his great attitude certainly makes him one of the players to watch in the future. Listen to the full interview below.

 

 

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Investigative Feature on CTE in American Football

99% of NFL Players Have CTE

In a recent study published in the journal ‘JAMA’, it was discovered that 99% of deceased NFL players had CTE.

CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a degenerative disease that is a result of multiple traumas to the brain. CTE’s can only be identified in a brain examination once someone has died.

American Football is often referred to as one of the most dangerous sports to play in the world and with new developments into CTE studies, this reputation isn’t in any danger of going away.

Between 1900 to 1905, forty five people died playing the sport which resulted in an intervention from the president at the time, Theodore Roosevelt, evaluating if America had a place for such a violent sport. As a result helmets were introduced and ultimately became compulsory for all players in the NFL.

One of the most recent examples of CTE was found in ex-New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez was found guilty of the first degree murder of Odin Lloyd, his future brother in law, in 2015. Hernandez hung himself in his cell in April 2017 and had shown symptoms of CTE prior to his death including memory loss and displays of aggression.

After his death, Dr Ann Mckee, a leader in CTE study, discovered that Hernandez had a stage three CTE. The worst stage CTE is a stage four, which mean Hernandez’s CTE was incredibly serious. Hernandez’s defence did not raise the issue of a CTE due to the fact that Hernandez was claiming to be not guilty but it could be that the murder of Odin Lloyd could be partly attributed to CTE.

Cases of concussions are not just limited to the NFL and can be seen at all levels of the sport in different countries. Calum Lyle, a defensive back for the Swansea Titans, experienced a concussion in the 2016-17 season during a Premiership game against the Hertfordshire Hurricanes.

When asked what it felt like, Lyle replied ‘I tackled the opposing team’s running back and the next thing I knew, I didn’t really know where I was. I almost stayed on the field but one of my teammates told me to go and get it checked out. I went to an ambulance and they checked me out and confirmed I’d suffered a concussion’.

When asked whether it affected how he tackled people afterwards, Lyle said ‘To be honest , it was a bit that tackle was a bit off a one off as the coaching staff for the Titans regularly emphasise safe tackling and playing the game the right way, sometimes it [concussions] just happens.

The NFL have been forced to carry out extreme measures by making their concussion protocol even stricter. The same can be said about games in the UK in which home teams are required to have a medic present at all games in order to play.

Due to the NFL’s improved concussion protocol, more concussions are being diagnosed every year. In 2015, 271 concussions were discovered in NFL players which was a thirty one percent increase from 2014.

A large majority of concussions are as a result of helmet to helmet contact and as a result, the NFL are actively trying to eliminate it by increasing fines and penalties. However, the NFL have been accused of trying to throw their weight around with suspensions by players such as Hall of Fame linebacker, Ray Lewis. Lewis was referring to a recent one game ban given to Pittsburgh Steelers rookie, Juju Smith-Schuster who was deemed to make an unnecessary hit to the head/neck area of the Cincinnati Bengals linebacker, Vontaze Burfict.

Whilst CTE’s are a serious issue within the sport of American football, there is clearly a thin line between keeping players safe and destroying the nature of a physical sport.

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Table showing the amount of Concussions in the NFL. Credit- Harrison Andrews

 

If you have any comments or theories on CTE in American football, feel free to comment.

Feature on New Season for Titans.

 

New Season, New Titans

 

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The Titans celebrating their first win of the season against the Birmingham Lions. Photo credit- Harrison Andrews

 

The Swansea Titans began the 2017-18 season with a whole new set of challenges, but they look set to overcome them.

At the end of the 2016-17 season, the Titans were left without a head coach in the form of Nick Keyse, the man that led the Titans to a Division 1 National Championship and a successful first season in the Premiership.

Keyse was and still is a highly respected name in Britball so the Titans knew it would be a task to replace him. The replacement however, was someone that was already close to the Titans, Adam Salter.

Salter has been with the Titans as both a player and a defensive coordinator so he was no stranger to the Titans setup when taking over. The Titans also gained a new offensive coordinator in the form of ex quarterback/wide receiver, Joe Cotterill. Cotterill’s American football experience within and outside the Titans has led to him being a recognised name in Britball and was a welcome addition to the coaching staff. Many wondered if the Titans would be the same with the loss of Keyse and in short, they aren’t.

The Titans are now a very different team to the team that went 5-3 in their first year in the Premiership but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The phrase ‘change is inevitable’ springs to mind and Salter’s Titans seem to be embracing it.

The Titans went into their first game of the season as underdogs against the Birmingham Lions, a team that managed to beat them twice in the two occasions the teams met last year. The feeling from the Titans camp was that they left points on the field in the previous meetings between the teams and now had something to prove. The Titans

The Titans started the game slow and went behind on the score line in the early stages of the game which led to fans beginning to experience glimpses of déjà vu from previous losses to the Lions. As the game went on the Titans were able to find their groove and ultimately tame the Lions in a thrilling win, 48-22. The offence were able to fire on all cylinders and this was largely due to the excellent performance by star player and quarterback, Sam Huxtable.

Huxtable was able to amass 150+ passing yards, three passing touchdowns, 124 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. Numbers like this are rarely seen in Premiership football due to its competitive nature but the Swansea QB is a rare player.

Huxtable was also helped by a performance from his offensive line and a standout performance from the Titans’ star wide receiver core. Quality performances from Dan Marshall, Elliot Bodman and David Asamoah led to the Lions’ secondary being completely opened up.

Asamoah, who has recently recovered from a long-term injury was incredibly happy to be back doing what he does best, catching touchdowns. ‘We (the offence) put in the work in training and now we’re reaping the rewards, we need to build on this win and get stronger’

Unfortunately, in the follow up game against the Hertfordshire Hurricanes, the Titans were not as successful. The game ended 14-6 but despite the loss, the Titans did not seem disheartened. Jordan Vaughan, a key offensive lineman for the Titans, was one of those people. ‘It’s never nice to lose but its part and parcel of American Football, the loss makes me and the team want get better and work on our mistakes’. It’s clear to see that the Titans can’t wait to make up for the loss against the ‘Canes and will have the chance to do so against the Bath Killer Bees on the 3rd of December at Llandarcy playing fields, 1pm kickoff. Have a sneak peak at one of the Titans training sessions below.

 

Emotive piece on offensive lineman

The Unsung Hero of Football

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The 16-17 Swansea Titans offensive line celebrating their Welsh Varsity win. Photo credit- Harrison Andrews

 

It is an undoubted fact that the position hailed as being the most important on the football field is the quarterback. He is the cornerstone of a good offense and is expected to read the game better than any other player on the field.

Now I’m sure that there’s some defensive players and coordinators out there that will disagree with me, saying that ‘defence wins championships’, and ‘The Broncos defense won them Superbowl 50, not Peyton Manning’ and I’d be inclined to agree with the latter of those two statements. However, it would still remain that quarterbacks are often referred to as being the most influential people on the field.

This article however, is not about quarterbacks or defences for that matter, it is about the man who puts in the work time and time again with no credit. The only position on the field where you can have 99% of a perfect game, give up one sack and that’s all people will remember. Ladies and gentleman, I am of course referring to the offensive lineman.

As of 2015, the average size for an offensive lineman was six foot five, weighing in at over twenty two stone. Now that size would be perfectly fine if offensive lineman were expected to stand still, which many ill-informed NFL pundits would have you believe. Despite this opinion, new age offensive lineman are expected to be athletic as well as big so that they can get downfield and make key blocks when needed.

One of the main reasons talented offensive linemen often go under the radar is due to the fact that it is much harder to measure their ability statistically. What I mean by this is that you can directly measure the successfulness of a quarterback by; their passing yards, their TD/interception ratio, their QB rating and their rushing yards. Measuring an offensive lineman’s season requires hours of watching their games closely and ultimately making judgements on how consistent they are.

A prime example of offensive lineman can be seen in a recent opinion put forward by ex-Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin who claimed that ‘playing offensive line is easy… it’s not like playing wide receiver’. Irvin went on to say that all an offensive lineman has to do is stand in front of another player of the same build and block them. As a result of this ridiculous statement, I, and thousands of other offensive lineman, lost all respect for Michael Irvin as a pundit.

Part of me wanted to call this article, ‘an open letter to Michael Irvin’ but Irvin is just a small part of the problem. It’s because of people like Irvin that kids are not saying ‘I want to be an offensive lineman when I grow up’. They all want to be the guys that score the touchdowns or throw them. But there is glory in the offensive line, the sense of achievement you feel when you bully a defensive lineman or linebacker into the ground and stand over them as they cower on the floor is incomparable. The feeling when you see your running back run fifty yards up the field because of a block you made makes you feel invincible.

So this is not an open letter to Michael Irvin, it’s an open letter to all the aspiring and current offensive lineman out there. No you may not get the glory like the receivers or the quarterbacks, but without us the offense is nothing. The war is won in the trenches and will continue to be won in the trenches for as long as football is alive.

Post on the Growth of American Football in Britain

American Football reaches new heights in the UK

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Top of the range American Football equipment belonging to a Swansea Titans player. Photo credit- Harrison Andrews.

In a study carried out by BAFA (the British American Football Association), it was discovered that the number of participants in grassroots American football was rapidly increasing and has reached its highest total since the sport reached the UK.

The study showed that the number of adults playing full contact American football has risen by over 18% which is an incredibly large increase considering the amount of players that were already playing the sport.

One of the most notable increases can be seen in the amount of coaches now found in UK American football which has now increased by 47%. The rise in coaches will definitely contribute to the game’s expansion as more coaches means more focus on the improvements of players.

One team that has certainly experienced the growth of American Football in the UK is the Swansea Titans. The Titans joined the University American Football league in 2009 and have first hand experience of the rise of the sport in the UK. After joining the league the Titans would have to wait until the 2013-14 season to reach their first set of playoffs in which they won the National Challenge Trophy. The league was realigned twice after this and the Titans found themselves in the league below the Premiership.

The Titans went on to play the Kingston Cougars in the 2014-15 playoffs but were ultimately knocked out. The Titans bounced back from the disappointing loss to Kingston the following season by going undefeated and sealing their promotion to the Premiership.

Since the move to the Premiership, the Titans have enjoyed a lot more respect as a team from both the British American football bubble and their fellow students after winning University team of the year for the second time in three years. David Asamoah, a star wide receiver for the Titans, believes that this has been largely due to the general increase in interest for the sport in the UK. ‘It’s easy to see that American football is getting much bigger here (in the UK), there are now four sell out NFL games taking place in Wembley and Twickenham this year.’

When asked about how he felt about the team winning team of the year, Asamoah believes that it is a great thing for American Football in the UK. ‘By beating so many other talented teams in the University for the award, it truly shows that people are impressed by both the sport and the way we play. It’s a great thing for the sport’.

In fact, the Titans have experienced such a rise to prominence in the Uni that Sam Huxtable, a highly talented quarterback and receiver, was chosen as the poster boy for Swansea University’s varsity. Having a Titans player as poster boy for the Uni was very much unfamiliar territory for the Titans but was a great step in the right direction for American football in the UK.

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Sam Huxtable (Centre) was the poster boy for the 2017 Varsity. Credit-Swansea University.

If reading this article has made you interested in playing American football, there are teams based everywhere in the U.K for all ages. For a list of teams in the UK, click here to go to Double Coverage’s website. If you’d like a snippet of what it is like to play American football, we put a GoPro on Huxtable’s head during a training session for a POV angle which can be seen below.

Feature on Injuries

Interview: Injuries in American Football

 

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Taylor-Jones (Bottom Left) celebrating the 2015-16 Division 1 National Title with the Titans just a year after his injury. Photo credit- Whizzyfingers Photography.

American football has become one of the most dangerous sports in the world and is not looking like changing any time soon. The NFL has often come under fire for failing to fully protect its players but it seems like the problem also exists in the U.K.

Lewis Taylor-Jones, an offensive lineman for the Swansea Titans, has first hand experience of a long term injury after sustaining a tear in a knee ligament in 2014. Taylor-Jones was set to be a key player for the Titans in the 2014-15 season but injured himself in an Oklahoma drill. The Oklahoma drill is one of the most physical training drills in American football and is widely used.

Despite being so widely used, the Oklahoma drill has its critics as many believe the drill is too dangerous for players and is ‘archaic’. However it would be harsh to blame Taylor-Jones’ injury purely on the Oklahoma drill. Taylor-Jones plays in one of the most injury prone positions in the sport. In a study carried out by the Journal of Physical Activity and Health over ten thousand high school students, it was discovered that offensive lineman were injured more than any other position.

Interestingly the report also mentions that the most common injury sustained by offensive lineman were knee injuries and that the medial collateral ligament in the knee was the most common injury in American football. One of the main questions posed by these findings is whether anything can be done to prevent these injuries.

One of the main ways players are able to prevent knee injuries and re-injuries is by wearing knee braces. Knee braces have been proven to protect against medial collateral ligament injuries and provide confidence for offensive lineman when putting weight on knees.

It would seem that knee braces certainly prevent against knee injuries but players outside of the NFL are expected to pay for them with their own money. With top braces costing around £100, should clubs be paying for their players protection? If teams in the United Kingdom are unable to afford the braces, should they be made compulsory so that offensive lineman would be forced to buy them? Taylor-Jones is certainly a supporter of knee braces and an interview with the player can be heard below.

 

New journalism post on varsity

South Wales is green

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Head coach Nick Keyse celebrating the Varsity win. Photo Credit-Harrison Andrews.

It was 11am on a warm Wednesday in Cardiff and the tension in the air could be cut with a knife. For Cardiff it was a nothing to lose game with the mighty Titans being a division above their Welsh counterparts.

As the game kicked off, it was greeted by a roar of both the teams fans reminiscent of a viking battle cry. Green and red jerseys clattered as both sidelines watched eagerly for the first score. Both teams were unable to score on their opening drives but that was soon to change.

The Titans took to the field and everything changed, the trenches became theirs. As the offensive line began to dominate, the running backs began to spread their legs and glide through the weary Cobras defence. As the game progressed the Titans began to wear the black paint of the Cobras helmets with pride, finishing every play with positive yards.

The  support of the travelling Swansea supporters seemed to be taken well by the Swansea Titans as they began to respond with touchdown after touchdown. Whilst the Titans seemed to respond well to the sunshine, the Cobras were not as appreciative of the rays as tensions began to boil.

As the game became more physical so did the players as players from both teams began to throw handbags to assert their dominance. Fortunately no punches were thrown but it certainly came close. By halftime the Titans were leading 28-0 at the Cobras’ snake pit and the sidelines were a complete juxtaposition.

The Cobras sideline was full of gloomy faces but the Titans sideline mimicked the dancing rays of the sun as their first half went perfectly. The second half would prove to be a better time for the Cobras as they were able to feed their hungry fans with a touchdown.

The Titans didn’t start the second half firing on all cylinders like their first half display but they were still able to finish strongly, winning 40-7 and retaining the Varsity Trophy.

Despite the strong win for the Titans, the team’s mood instantly dropped into the cut up ground as they realised this would be the last game for their indispensable head coach, Nick Keyse. As Keyse gave a farewell speech, it was replicant of a captain speaking to his battalion, one thing was clear, the Titans will never see a coach as good as the mighty Keyse. Roll Green Tide.