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.

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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.