Category: Player Articles

James Walter Selected For GB National Trials

Oxford Saints star RB/TE James Walter has been invited to the GB National Team Trials

The driving force behind the Saints offense has seen his hard work be justly rewarded, with a highly coveted invitation to attend the GB National Team Trials in Sheffield.

James will be attending the trials alongside other hopeful players as he strives to earn a spot on the final roster.


He completed the 2015 season with 148 carries gaining 1103 yards in just 8 games, claiming 14 touchdowns with an average gain of 7.5 yards per carry. As dangerous as he is on the ground, James also hauled in 20 passes for an additional 186 yards and 3 touchdowns.

James led the team in carries, receptions, yards gained and touchdowns.

He is also the teams punter and is able to punt the ball with power and accuracy, which frequently give the Saints defense an advantage.

With thousands of adult players across the country, to be acknowledged for your achievements and given a chance to play for your country is a significant honour.

Following the recent successes of the GB Women’s Team, expectations are high for the Men’s team to follow suit and deliver a strong performance in Europe.

James Walter 2015 Highlights

Originally from Gloucester, James joined the Saints when he came to study at Oxford Brookes University.

Making his debut season in 2012, he quickly showed his abilities and proved himself to be a valuable addition to the team.

For several seasons James competed on the American Football field all year round, playing his university ball with the Oxford Brookes Panthers over the winter, then playing with the Saints in the senior leagues during the summer.

A hard task for many to achieve as the constant training and physical effects of playing can make it difficult for some, whilst also balancing academic work, but James showed his commitment to the game and worked even harder off the field to get his physical fitness to the level required for back to back seasons, year after year…

Following news of his invitation, fellow teammates have praised James on his achievements and are thrilled that his hard work through the season has paid off, wishing him good luck on his trials.

Oxford Saints during the BAFANL Division II SFC West match between Oxford Saints and Cornish Sharks at Oxford Rugby Club, Oxford, England on 12 April 2015. Photo by Gareth Brown.

Veteran Linebacker Dean Bryan:

“James Walter? What can I say. I could tell that this guy was talented when he first joined the team back in 2012. He was one of a very very good crop of OBU Panthers we recruited in the pre-season that year. James initially played as a tight end for us but he became a much more versatile player when he really hit his fitness regime hard.”

“The last few years has seen James become a dual threat in both the run and pass game. With all of that said, what impresses me just as much as his ability on the field is that over the last season and a half, he has really stepped up and become a leader on the offense. I still think #7 has another gear he can reach and we are delighted he chooses to play his senior ball here in Oxford. In open space, he is almost unplayable and practising against him every week definitely challenges our defense and makes us better.”


First year Running Back/Tight End Grant Tebb:

“It’s been a pleasure to play with James this summer, his leadership, passion and talent have been evident to me me in my first season with the Saints. The effort he puts in on the pitch and willingness to do all it takes has really inspired the offence and brought the level of play of all around him up. His call up to trials is well deserved and will allow him to showcase his full array of skills”


Veteran Wide Receiver Sam Armstrong:

‘Walter has thoroughly deserved and earned the call up to the GB trials. His hard hitting, always giving 100% attitude at training all season, his determination in every game to being the best he can be and fighting tooth and nail to get every single last yard out of every single play, even when dragging two guys behind him.”

“He hasn’t just improved himself this year, he’s helping improve the entire squad through giving the rookies valuable coaching and giving the vets a top tear player to train with and against.”


2nd year Strong Safety Chris Fox:

“James has been one of the most influential players on the team this year, not only with his ability but with his work ethic and willingness to teach others. Teaching others provides insight into your own technique and I think James has continued to develop his own unique playing style, harder and faster than last year and shows no sign of letting up now.”


1st year Linebacker Graeme Taylor:

“I’ve played this sport for 10 years with players from all over America and Europe, and I can honestly say that James Walter is one of the best players I’ve ever had the fortune of playing alongside. To gain over 1,000 rushing yards in an 8 game season is unbelievable, and he thoroughly deserves this opportunity to represent GB. I know he will do himself and the Oxford Saints proud.”

Oxford Saints v Torbay TrojansSky Bet League 212/04/2015.

Player Profile: Chris Fox – Life With The Oxford Saints

10354132_10202638492141315_557335595857949846_nPlayer summary

Name: Christopher Fox

Hometown: London, UK

Nationality: British/Swedish

Height: 5’11

Weight: 170

Chris Fox joined the Oxford Saints for the 2014 season after hearing an upcoming rookie session promoted on local radio.

Initially put to work with the wide receivers, Fox quickly realised that his passion laid with the defense and he was keen to switch to a position which allowed for more aggressive play.

Fox has since become a solid part of the team and after an impressive rookie year, he has now claimed lots of game time in his 2nd season and was awarded defensive MVP in the 50-16 victory over the Swindon Storm on 5th July.

How i got into American Football – Growing up in Sweden

My introduction to american football was playing ‘NFL Quarterback Club 99’ on the Nintendo 64 with my brother. I tended to pick the New England Patriots and he would be the Green Bay Packers, of such things are loyalties born…

I never thought it would be something that I could ever do myself, I was a bespectacled short kid with little athletic talent. Even if I had wanted to play, the accepted sports were rugby at school or association football (soccer) at home, where would I find an american football team in Sweden?

1620868_689722711091811_444562608_nFast forward to me in 2014, I’m living in Oxford having been to school (Millfield) and university (Exeter) here in the UK. Now I play Madden on the XBox and although I’ve grown taller, I’ve also grown outwards; the result of a sedentary job and propensity for chugging beer.

A particularly unflattering photo shocked me and lead me to start working on getting back in to the shape I was in when I played competitive rugby at school.

Although it took longer than it should have, by the end of the year I had managed to get back to the fitness level I wanted. The question arose of what to do now, I was fit but what I needed was a reason to maintain… Although I’d played rugby and enjoyed it, I’d never loved it.

Then a fortuitous radio advert mentioned a “Rookie taster day with the Oxford Saints American Football club”, reminding me how I’d always wanted to play but never had an opportunity, here was my shot and my dreams of playing linebacker like Mike Vrabel or Ray Lewis could be realised.

My First Training Sessions

Without going in to the details of how that first session went, I did manage to get put on my back during a “non contact” drill, I was absolutely hooked. The next session was back at the Saints home ground at Abingdon Rugby Club, in howling wind and pouring rain, but in no way was I deterred.

When the team was split between offense and defense I had no idea where to go, I spoke to the coaches and they put me with the receivers. Thinking back to the taster day, the drills I’d most enjoyed had been the ones for the defence, and so at the next training session when we split between the offense and defense, I happily trundled off with the defense and introduced myself to the D coaches, although they did put me with the defensive backs rather than the linebackers.

Now these were the drills I had in mind, every rep ending with contact or knocking a pass away to crush your opponents dreams. Didn’t matter how big they were I loved it, unfortunately I still had a lot to learn about technique…


I was told to follow the advice of veteran Ben Denton (free safety at the time but is now our starting quarterback) as he would teach me how to play free safety. He was switching to cornerback which meant I managed to get almost every snap at free safety during scrimmage at the end of practice, which sounds great until veteran Stephen Bentley charges through the linebackers and I’m the last man responsible for taking down this diesel train.

He may have driven me back another 4-5 yards but I managed to get him down, which really cemented my opinion that this was a sport I would enjoy!

The 2014 Season

As we neared the end of pre-season we had two main events upcoming, a friendly game against Bristol Apache, and a controlled scrimmage against the Berkshire Renegades.

First up was the controlled scrimmage against Berkshire, a premier team (the tier above us at the time) and for a lot of us, our first outing against a live opponent.


Once again I was lucky to pick up a lot of reps but as a rookie I still didn’t have the situational awareness, ending up deep in our endzone and allowing a short pass to be completed to the front.

This was my first exposure to the heightened sense of competition this sport brings out in you, and seeing how differently everyone reacted to mistakes made here versus in practice showed me this wasn’t a group of weekend warriors, they were here to beat every opponent that came along.

When we came up against Bristol a few weeks later I thought that I was ready. Man, was I wrong. Previously every offense I’d faced had been a maximum of two wide receivers, but Bristol run a predominantly trips formation (three wide receivers lined up together). They also run a no huddle offense. For a rookie this was too much.

I found myself allowing receivers to get behind me, anathema for a free safety, and where I’d thought I was in good shape this was definitely disproved.

As it was a pre-season game I don’t think the score was promoted anywhere and I am definitely happy about that. This would be one of the worst experiences of my football life and it made me realise that I needed to be fitter and smarter before I could play this game at the level that was expected of me.

Once the season started,  veteran Mike Turner came back from the Oxford Brookes University Panthers and played free safety for us, which allowed me to study someone else in the position.

Firstly I noticed the amount he communicated, relaying information from one side of the field to the other. This is where I learned why the FS is thought of as the general of the defence, able to see everything from his high viewpoint and organising his troops as required.


After a few weeks the coaches also moved me from FS to strong safety. Rather than being the last line of defense, here I got to play as a mixture between linebacker and defensive back.

I was closer to my preferred position, but up close I also realised how unsuited my body type was to that position.

Strong safety on the other hand fit me like a glove. Heavily involved in run support, but also responsible for short passing routes, I understood why the coaches had put me here.

As the season progressed and we had some close scorelines. My time on the field was fairly limited, but this spurred me to learn all I could from the vets and also to get myself in the gym and really start to build something.

From the final third of the season and over the off season I spent 3-5 days a week training. Either lifting #ClangingAndBanging or working on stamina and agility.

The hardest thing to get through was the idea that I was “Training for a sport not a swimsuit competition” as veteran lineman Rees Gidley was forced to tell me.

With other members of the team we’d meet up to do cone drills and practice catching, I’d watch YouTube videos of DBs training, and I’d research what type of lifting they were doing as they got ready to try and get into college or into the NFL.

I had my sights set on a starting spot on the Oxford Saints defense and I was going to give it everything I had. Luckily I had a lot of support from other members of the team, people like Matt Wheldon who would lift with me, Coach Peart and Martin Fitzpatrick who took the time to write up the areas I could improve, and Ali Galbraith who would give me an unholy leg burn with constant back peddling transitioning to sprints.

I came back at the start of 2015 stronger, faster, better, and I was ready to show the coaches what I could achieve.

The 2015 Season

Pre-season came and with it a few weeks of non-contact training.

Focussed on footwork and catching, I felt the work in the off-season had really given me a boost. This was only heightened as we moved in to kitted practice.

Hitting harder than I did last year, understanding how a play was going to develop earlier than I could last year, having the confidence to diagnose a play and react to it, meant I was making more positive plays than last year.

The effort I’d put in seemed to culminate during our match against Bristol at home where we started the second half with both of our Strong Safeties on the field. This was the longest period of continuous play I’d experienced and was the first game I felt comfortable in my position and what was expected of me.

Winning this game felt like retribution for the pre-season game the year before where I was unsure and unfit, this time I was ready and able to meet the challenge.

As the season progressed I continued to work hard on and off the field. Then, on 5th July 2015,  what I’d been striving for finally happened; I was starting for the Oxford Saints.

Our opponent for the day was nearest rival, the Swindon Storm, who’d drubbed us 50-16 earlier in the season in a game where I was injured.

This was my chance to show the coaches that they were right to put their faith in me and also for me to get an amount of revenge.

The game report and highlights are available here.

For me everything just seemed to click. I wasn’t thinking, I was acting instinctively.

I was able to see things happening and react to them in such a way that I contributed to the defense holding them to only 13 points. Points which were scored not by a sustained drive where they had us on the back foot, but each time by a single broken play where we were caught out.

The game ended with Coach Wykes nominating me as defensive MVP, an honour I hadn’t even dared think I could earn yet. With enough hard work, determination, and listening to the coaching and advice from vets it shows that we can surpass our own wildest dreams.

I’ve found a family and a home with the Oxford Saints, and they bring out the best in me. No other sport has ever made me feel this way, and now all I need is to deliver on the expectations that they have of me.

Interested In Joining?

Preparations have began for the 2016 season and new players are invited to sign up for our rookie training sessions in November & December.

Full details and registration instructions are available here.

The Saints Go Marching In…. To The Playoffs!

The Oxford Saints qualify for the playoffs!

Following a successful 2015 regular season, the Saints have booked themselves a place in the Division II quarter finals on 23rd August.

With some teams still finishing their remaining games, it is not yet clear who Oxford will be facing in the first round but it’s currently projected to be the Sussex Thunder.

The Saints travelled to take on the Thunder in a pre-season friendly earlier this year. A re-match would be an interesting game as we’ll be able to see how both teams have progressed since the warm up game.

SFCW – Division II


Oxford sit 2nd in the table narrowly behind the leaders, Bristol Apache. The highlights of the season have undoubtedly been the two games played between Oxford and the Apache, both being decided by just a single point.

Should the Saints have overcome the Apache in the 2nd game and claimed the win, Oxford would be enjoying the position of having home advantage in the playoffs. Instead, the Saints will now be travelling to our ‘TBC’ quarter final opponent…


Spencer Duffy on the playoffs:

Veteran kicker/linebacker Spencer Duffy shares his thoughts on the last time the Saints reached the playoffs in 2012, along with his analysis of the upcoming contest on 23rd August:

995755_502934609782941_433334853_n“I don’t know what I could have done differently” – My clearest memory of a playoff game

“These words were uttered by veteran linebacker/running back Chris Ellis after we lost to the Milton Keynes Pathfinders in 2012. For Ellis, he could probably say that about most games he played in, he never really missed a block or whiffed a tackle.

He was a great player, but his individual excellence wasn’t enough to win the game that day, though he was a big part of our team and the playoff run that year. Hearing those words though, it felt different for me.”


Chris Ellis lands a huge block against the

Bristol Apache (2012 regular season)

“I on the other hand could pinpoint the exact parts that I could have, and should have done differently.

“I’d been over-zealous in hunting down a punter who turned out to be running a fake that MK converted into a first down. I’d also allowed myself to be blocked out on a kick return that ended up going for a touchdown. So I knew exactly what I could have done differently.

That feeling has stayed with me since and I’ve used it as motivation when I have to train in the rain, or snow, or when I don’t feel like going to the gym, I remind myself – “remember when you got run over by that fullback?!?”

The reality is that playing in the playoffs is a special achievement; it is something that you have to earn, and if you get there you’ve had a good season.”


Tackle by Spencer Duffy against the

Sussex Thunder (2015 pre-season)

“A lot of players will never be involved in a playoff game; I’ve been playing for five years and only been in one. Dean Bryan, the veteran Saints linebacker just played in his 100th game for the Saints – but only six of them have been in the playoffs.

We recently finished our 2015 regular season with a 6-2 record, good enough to win us a playoff berth for the first time since the Pathfinders game in 2012. Now we stand on an even field with everyone else, nothing that we have done up until now matters, there’s no points difference or points allowed that count anymore.

We win, we progress. We lose, we say “there’s always next year”.

The reality is that we’re going to be facing the best team we’ve played all season on 23rd August (early projections seem to suggest Sussex Thunder). We can’t rely on the individual brilliance of tight end/running back James Walter to drag us through to the next round. The team as a whole needs to step up and show we belong at the next level. The cherry of a championship and division one football hangs tantalisingly above us, but we have to go out there and prove we deserve it.”


Spencer Duffy tackles a running back against

Lincolnshire Bombers (2014 regular season)

“The team looks very different to the 2012 squad that made the playoffs. Ellis, along with canadian Ken Snider, Simon McEvoy, Stephen Bentley, Lee Hutton and a host of others have left the team. But we’ve been able to successfully gain a lot of new talent with excellent winter recruitment campaigns. The defense now has a Wright, a Stancombe, a Holmes, a Fox and a new Day (nephew of head coach Andrew Day) , to go along with the omnipotent Dean Bryan.

The defense has looked a lot more solid in recent games after a disastrous start, and there’s reason for optimism heading into the playoffs, though the expectation is that it will be a sterner test for our secondary unit.

The offense has conquered all this season, averaging 35 points a game in a tough division. Led by James Walter notching over 1000 yards, a very special achievement in only 8 games.

Along with Kev Brooks, Grant Tebb, Sam Armstrong and Rich Bloomer, the offense has really been clicking this year. Credit should go to Ben Denton too, he’s playing in his rookie season at quarterback, usually a rookie QB should be nervous with a lack of experience, but he is working hard and putting in the hours off the field to learn his new position thoroughly.”

Grant Tebb scores against the

Swindon Storm (2015 regular season)

“We have a strong squad and the potential to go far in the playoffs, I’m optimistic looking forward.

We can beat anybody put in front of us: our defense is good enough to stop any other team, and our offense is good enough that they shouldn’t be stopped by any other team. Our coaches make the smart decisions and the right calls when needed. So we should be unstoppable….

For a lot of guys it will be their first ever playoff game and they will be rightly nervous, but they just need to keep doing what got us where we are.

As a smart man once said – ‘It’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.’

I want every single player to be able to come off the field, win or lose, and have no regrets, to not be able to say they messed something up. I want every player to say, proudly, like Chris Ellis:

“I don’t know what I could have done differently.”

Written by Spencer Duffy #58

11113789_931816510215762_3797895789434664263_nSpencer Duffy and the 2015 Saints defense being briefed

by defensive coordinator Nick Wykes


The Season so Far: A Player’s Perspective

20150602120012Tight-end Rich Bloomer breaks down the 2015 season so far 

I’m Rich, #83 tight-end for the Oxford Saints. In the earlier days of my career (around 2008) i played for the Saints for two seasons, recently I’ve been playing with the Solent Thrashers, but I’m now back with my old club!

My time with the Saints this year has been the description of an ‘Up and Down’ season. I really enjoyed our pre-season training camps held in the 3G Dome facility at the Oxford Academy and it was great meeting all my new team mates.

The Oxford Saints have been so accepting of new faces and I have enjoyed the social side of the team just as much as the training side, including beer pong, nights out on the town and some casual flag football in the park.


So let’s look at the games we’ve played

Sussex Thunder – 22nd March  (53-28 victory to Sussex)

Our pre season game was a good chance for some of our rookies to have a real game experience.

The game itself was very close fought fight for the first half, which was great to be part of. It gave me time to play alongside my old linemen friends of Clive Russell and Stuart Cribbes, along with a couple of new faces. Those boys will always be the “Saints old guard” in my eyes, they just keep getting older!

It also gave me the chance to get reps with our new starting quarterback Ben Denton, who played really well for his first game and i was really impressed with how calm he was for his first outing under centre.

Our defense is looking really strong and although the game appeared to run away from us in the second half when we had our depth chart rotations in, the first half was a great display of what we can offer.

Kev Edited

Torbay Trojans – 12th April (18-6 victory to Oxford)

I sadly missed this game but from what I could tell we had some “start of season” jitters.  Everyone  has them, it was even sad to see my old team the Solent Thrashers fall at their first hurdle during their opening game of the season.

But it looks like both the Thrashers and the Saints are improving….

Linebacker Calvin Holmes lands two huge sacks on the Torbay quarterback


Bristol Apache – 26th April (35-34 victory to Oxford)

This was the highlight of my playing career to date.

I have always come into close head to head fixtures and always been on the losing side. I have been knocked out in semi final after semi final in the playoffs…. But this was one of those games I will always remember.

Bristol were really dominating us in the first half. I then got to experience some “inspirational” words from an old team mate turned head coach, Andrew Day.

There is no doubt in my mind that we did not win this game, Bristol lost it. They were ahead and then decided to start repping in less experienced players and this decision was a costly one. Bristol are a quality team, with good coaches and good players. We will need to focus when we travel to Bristol in a few weeks.

Oxford Saints v Bristol ApacheSky Bet League 212/04/2015.

Swindon Storm – 3rd May (50-16 victory to Swindon)

From high to low!

This was a serious fall from glory for the team. We were on such a high from the Bristol game, we were all over Twitter and Facebook, and our whole team was on cloud 9.

In rainy Swindon our pass game got picked apart and our run game could not get moving. Although on some days, you can win a game with 16 points. We did let a lot of points through on defense, far too many.

It all seemed to run from their number 2 who was playing both sides of the ball. All teams have their star players, it was just annoying that we could not stop theirs.  We went very quiet on social media at this point.

But it gave us a lot of footage to work through on HUDL, and a lot of learning points. Everyone got their playbooks back out and realised we are not going to walk through this division.


Cornish Sharks – 17th May (43-24 victory to Oxford)

Cornish sharks have always been an old nemesis of mine personally.

It could potentially be the long drive down to Newquay to play, or it could be the fact you always get yourself into intense battles on the pitch, both physically and mentally. They made the long journey up to us, and did not travel very well. It felt like they were missing some of their key players.

As we all do, I look forward to travelling down to Newquay for a weekend of football and a bit of after hours socialising! A bunch of us have arranged for accommodation so we’ll be making the most of it.

Oxford Saints during the BAFANL Division II SFC West match between Oxford Saints and Cornish Sharks at Oxford Rugby Club, Oxford, England on 12 April 2015. Photo by Gareth  Brown.


Torbay Trojans – 24th May (72-30 victory to Oxford)

This again was a great honour for me personally as I was allowed to captain the team, coming away 72-30 winners was a great victory.

A lot of old friends of mine play for Torbay and it is never nice to see a team become disheartened, which they did not. They had some skilled players up front and a very quick and elusive quarterback.

We did give up 30 points but this is the same issue Bristol had with repping in players that may not have the most game experience, but we will give up some points for players to get game experience.

Bristol vs Swindon – 31st May (37-16 victory to Bristol)

This one was a big game for us to watch and we all had a keen eye on this at training.

The result was interesting but not surprising for us. We know that Bristol let us win the game when they came to us. It will be a much tougher battle when we travel to Bristol in our next game on 21st June…

Since Bristol last saw us, we have been training hard and with so many new faces on our 2015 squad, the team is constantly evolving. No two games are ever the same…

As we go on…

This year we have a huge squad, approximately 75-80 registered players at time of writing.

Nearby in the region, both Gloucester and Reading have pulled out of senior competition in 2015, but the Saints just keep growing and have been extremely pro active with recruitment in the 2014 off-season, building strong awareness of the club through social media and other channels.

SFCW – Division II


This is great as we are all now having to fight for our positions on the team. This means that if I want to play tight-end, I have to battle four high quality players for my spot and this is adding an extra level of pressure for me personally.

This is making me want to train harder and push myself further, and I am playing a position with very little depth compared to some other positions at the Saints this year. The linebackers are fighting against 6 or 7 players on the depth chart. Meanwhile Oxford’s secondary comprises of about 12-13 individuals fighting for game time at either cornerback or safety.

This means all of us are dying for game time. This thirst is making us all play to our best and wanting to continue to push ourselves to be the best team we can be…

By Rich Bloomer

Rich Bloomer from Solent Thrashers

Rich Bloomer 1Former Saint Rich Bloomer returns to the fold!

Rich Bloomer is a Tight end who has recently joined us from one of the biggest football powerhouses in the UK, the Solent Thrashers.

He started his career with the Saints seven years ago and for the last four seasons he has been competing with Solent. He also has experience playing at Slot receiver.

We are thrilled to welcome back a former player and Rich brings greats size and experience to the Saints offense.

When asked about the transfer, Rich commented:

“I started with the Saints when I first started playing in University. I was advised by my receivers coach to go to different teams and experience all positions, systems and then return.

I have now returned, sadly that same coach has not!”

Alongside the transfer of Laurent Antoine, both him and Rich will provide a huge boost in experience and power at the Tight end position.

Laurent Antoine from France’s Nice Dauphins

laurent 1

Another brilliant signing for 2015 is experienced French Tight-end Laurent Antoine.

Laurent started playing in 1998 and joined the Nice Dauphins in 2001. He played 11 seasons for them up until June 2012 with the first six in France’s 2nd division including a National Title in 2007.

The following five seasons Laurent competed with the Dauphins in the Premiership league, with his most recent season ending with a defeat at the semi-final stage.

Alongside playing Tight-end, he also has experience at Slot receiver, Runningback and Fullback.

When asked about the transfer, Laurent said:

“I really missed the game after three years away from it, but also I missed being around my teammates.

I tried-out last year but my job and family duties didn’t allow me to join, but this year’s upcoming mid-week practices allowed me to finally sign-up.

I was following the team since I moved to Oxford two years ago and there always seemed to be a great atmosphere around the Saints.”

laurent 2

Watch out for Laurent playing the Tight-end position with the Saints offense in our upcoming pre-season game against the Sussex Thunder.