Category: Player Articles

Graeme Taylor from Edinburgh Wolves

Graeme Taylor Wolves2015 sees a number of experienced players transferring to the Oxford Saints, bolstering our already strong squad even further.

First up is Linebacker Graeme Taylor.

Graeme played for the University of Stirling Clansmen between 2004 and 2008 and later joined the Edinburgh Wolves in 2009. After spending six seasons with the Wolves, he moved to Oxfordshire and got involved with the Saints.


 

Graeme said:

“I moved to Oxford with my girlfriend back in July 2014 so she could start a new job, and one of the selling points for me was being able to continue playing American Football with the Saints.

I got in contact with the team and was fortunate enough to be allowed to train with the Saints before the final game of the season against the Leicester Falcons. I was really impressed with the set-up here and was made to feel welcome by all the players and coaches, so it was a no-brainer for me that I would be playing here this season.

I’m now looking forward to training hard and winning a few English Championships with the Saints to go with my Scottish Championships from my time with the Edinburgh Wolves and the University of Stirling Clansmen.”


 

Look out for Graeme when he is on the field with the Saints defense! We’re beginning our season on Sunday 22nd March with a pre-season game against the former premiership side, Sussex Thunder.

Read the game preview here.

Meet new QB – David McCormack

2015 is shaping up to be an exciting year for many reasons. Two of those reasons are the new Quarterbacks that will be experiencing their first trials being under centre for the Saints.

Cornerback Ben Denton and Runningback David McCormack have both decided that they want to step up and see if they have what it takes to lead the Saints onto the field. With the support of the coaching staff and their teammates, they have both began leading the Saints offense in training as they prepare for their first real contest against the Sussex Thunder on 22nd March 2015 in a pre-season friendly.

Which one will start is the question!

David has answered some questions for us about moving to Quarterback and what he hope to achieves throughout his first season.


 

How did you get started with American Football, and why did you join the Oxford Saints?

My first ever experience with football was, like many people outside of the US, Madden NFL. This must have been on Nintendo 64, so some years ago now… Never really understanding what I was doing, I never played it too much, but it did spark a slight interest. Years later I ended up watching the Giants beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl XLII. Ever since then, I’ve loved everything about football. I joined the Saints in 2012 after learning that my colleague at the time, and current Linebacker Adam Baker played for the team.

Who’s your NFL team?

St. Louis Rams

What’s your favourite American Football film or show?

Friday Night Light – the TV show. Although, after just seeing We Could Be King… I have to mention it, and recommend it to everyone. Regardless of whether you’re a football fan.


What position do you currently play and what do you enjoy about that position?

I have played Wide Receiver and Running Back in my time with the Saints. I am currently working during this pre season training as a Quarterback.

What has made you begin training for a QB position?

I’ve always wanted to play at the QB position But being so new to the team, and new to football relative to some of these guys I play with, who have grown up with football around them, It’s always been something I’ve dismissed as something I wouldn’t be able to do. Let alone be considered as a potential Quarterback by the coaches…

But over the off season, the actions of others, and one particular statement from a team mate made me want to just give it a go, regardless of what people would think – “football is a game of forcing your will upon others”.

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Why do you want to be a QB?

I want to be in a position where my team mates and coaches can rely on me. Be a leader and know that every offensive snap of the ball, I’m on the field and am able to try my hardest to make a difference and help us win.

 


Who’s your favourite NFL QB? Why do you respect him?

There are a few NFL Quarterbacks who I love to watch play. As cliche as it sounds, I love to watch Tom Brady throw the ball…his quick release and accuracy is incredible to watch, regardless of whether you like the Patriots or not. Aaron Rodgers is another that I like to watch play.

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What do you think are the most important qualities a QB needs to have?

Leadership, and the ability to stay calm under pressure.

What new pressures and challenges to you face training as a QB? How do you cope with these?

As a new/in training Quarterback, it can be difficult thinking that others around think you can’t do it, or are not good enough.

I try to think to myself that as long as I try my best on game day, commit to practice whenever I possibly can, whether that’s in the park or at a scheduled practice with the Saints, that’s all I can do. So that’s what I’m going to do.

In terms of challenges with the position, taking a snap under center is more difficult than it looks…

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What’s it like training against the Saints defense?

The Saints defense are intense…they are quick, strong and super hungry for a pick or to shut your offense down. you realize quite quickly that It’s no longer throwing routes in the park, or playing ‘passball’ with your friends for fun.

You’ve got the Saints defense in your face the second that ball is snapped, and they want to make an impression on the coaches just as much as you do.

Do you feel supported by your teammates and coaches to pursue a new position?

The quarterback position has a bit of a stigma around it. I generally feel supported, but if ever I don’t – it’s just an opportunity to turn peoples opinions around.

What qualities do you respect most in your teammates?

How much every single one of them want to win games.


 

If the team is down and you are the QB, how will you control the situation and encourage your team?

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Pass it to James Walter.

What is your state of mind before a game? 

Before I game I’m excited and very relaxed. That changes very very quickly as soon as I step in the huddle.

What do you hope to personally achieve in the 2015 season?

I want to start for the Saints, and if that’s not possible be there to support whoever is starting, and the rest of the team 100%


 

Meet new QB – Ben Denton

2015 is shaping up to be an exciting year for many reasons. Two of those reasons are the new Quarterbacks that will be experiencing their first trials being under centre for the Saints.

Cornerback Ben Denton and Runningback David McCormack have both decided that they want to step up and see if they have what it takes to lead the Saints onto the field.

With the support of the coaching staff and their teammates, they have both began leading the Saints offense in training as they prepare for their first real contest against the Sussex Thunder on 22nd March 2015 in a pre-season friendly.

Which one will start?

Ben has answered some questions for us about the new responsibilities he has and the challenges he now faces.


 

How did you get started with American Football, and why did you join the Oxford Saints?

“My dad has been a big NFL fan since channel 4 started showing it in the 80s. Accordingly, Sunday nights in my house growing up meant hours of NFL on the TV, so I’ve been into the game for a long time.

I played rugby for about 14 years for the local team before going to uni, and hung my scrum cap up! After graduating a mate told me about the saints, and that I should check out the rookie day that was coming up. I was hooked and made my debut in the 2013 season.”

Which NFL team do you support?

I’ve been a big Jacksonville fan ever since I saw them play the Colts at Everbank Field on Monday Night Football about ten years ago. My dad arranged for us to go tailgating with the locals, and I’ve been a long suffering fan ever since!

What’s your favourite American Football film or show?

I love Any Given Sunday. It’s the classic mix of cheesy lines, great football scenes and a top cast that makes it the best. I’ve also just been getting into Blue Mountain State, and wishing that I could be a college backup QB like Alex Moran!


What position do you currently play and what do you enjoy about that position?

I’ve played in the secondary for two years. I made my debut at safety in my rookie year, but moved to corner last year. I really enjoyed playing corner, despite the feeling of being on an island on many plays. I think it’s the hardest position to play as most of the time if you do your job, no-one notices, but if you muck up its so obvious! Also, our defensive backs coach, Coach Peart, who joined last year played a big role in my development, and made the year good fun.

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What has made you begin training for a QB position?

We were throwing the ball around before a wembley game this year, and a load of people walking past were like ‘hey, great arm pal’. My housemate, who plays DE, urged me to go for the position and I’ve been working hard ever since. There has been speculation over whether our QB’s last year would return, and as football is a game about going out and taking what you want from someone else (as safety Chris Fox rightly put it), why shouldn’t it be me?

Why do you want to be a QB?

The glory, the girls, the fame, the wealth? What’s not to love? But seriously, it’s something that I want to do, and if I didn’t give it a shot of regret it!


Who’s your favourite NFL QB? Why do you respect him?

I’m a big fan of Phillip Rivers. The guy is a proper baller, in that he never gives up, and would go through hell for his team mates.

What do you think are the most important qualities a QB needs to have?

Resilience. As a rookie QB, it’s going to be a tough ride. You’ve got to have the strength to put aside any mistakes, and learn from them. Having a short memory is the way to succeed, as if you constantly dwell on things that go wrong, how can you put them right?

What will you personally bring to the QB position at the Saints to make you different then others?

Physically, I think I’m a good build for a QB at this level. I’m 6ft2, and have enough speed to be considered a legitimate ‘dual threat’ QB, if coach gives me that freedom! I also think that I have the mental capacity to develop a deep understanding of the position (if I don’t take too many knocks to the head in pre-season that is!)

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What is the main thing you think the Saints offense needs to do this season to ensure success?

Discipline. In all aspects. I’m talking every o lineman at practice, no one talking in the huddle, no false starts, no needless penalties. In order to be the best we can be we have to be disciplined and professional in all aspects of our football.

What new pressures and challenges to you face training as a QB? How do you cope with these?

For me, the biggest challenge has been stepping up to the role of an on field leader. As a corner, I have always been quietly confident in myself, but quiet being the main word. I focussed on my own game and hardly said a word on the pitch. That is something that I have had to change through making a big mental effort to step up.

What’s it like training against the Saints defense?

They’re a loud bunch, I’ll give them that. I firmly believe that we have one of the best Defenses in the league (obviously slightly worse than last year now that I’m not playing corner…..), so it’s always going to be tough. However, if you want to be the best you have to beat the best.


 

Do you feel supported by your teammates and coaches to pursue a new position?

Definitely. There was the standard bit of banter when it emerged that I was going for the QB position, but that quickly subsided. All the coaches have been really helpful and supportive…well, apart from coach Peart, who I think feels betrayed by my decision to move to offense! It’s nothing personal coach!

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What qualities do you respect most in your teammates?

I’ve played in a lot of sports teams in my time, and not one has come close to showing the amount of team spirit that the saints have. We are all intrinsically different people, but on a Sunday we all come together as part of something bigger.

We all support each other and no one would hesitate to put their body on the line for any other player. I love this rag tag bunch!

If the team is down and you are the QB, how will you control the situation and encourage your team?

By showing leadership and calmness in a tough situation.

There’s a great story I always remember from the 1989 Super Bowl. With just over 3 mins remaining, the 49ers were down by 3 points. In the huddle before the first play of the drive, Joe Montana looked into the stand, tapped his left tackle and said ‘hey, isn’t that John Candy in the crowd?’. This simple act of calmness amongst the chaos of a Super Bowl fourth quarter relaxed his team, and he lead them 92 yards throwing for the winning touchdown.

You can’t inspire confidence in your team if you are a nervous wreck!


 

What is your state of mind before a game?  Are there any particular traditions or rituals you like to perform? 

Last year I returned kick offs, so I always went out early with Spencer to return kicks. This calmed me before a game and became a sort of ritual. I’m not a very superstitious person, so that’s about as ritualistic as I get! I do have a pretty sweet pre-game pump up playlist that I listen to though!

What do you hope to personally achieve in the 2015 season?

I’d like to lead the saints to the championship this year. I know that it will be a tough year personally, but I hope that I am strong enough to roll with the punches that being a new QB will bring, and can come out stronger at the end of the year.

Sam’s blog – My road to recovery from injury

Hey Folks – It’s been a while since my last blog but I have been told I need to give you guys something new to read, so i’m going to talk about off-season fitness and my personal road to recovery from injury…

Much like my last one this will be very rookie friendly. What to be doing to warm up for the season and how to get ready if this will be your first year playing.

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First and foremost…. GET IN THE GYM

It is true that American football caters to all shapes and sizes. You can be a 22 stone goliath on the Defensive Line cutting a path to the Quarterback for that bone crunching sack, or a 5ft nothing rake who is in the Slot Receiver position darting around and breaking tackles! Either way, you can be faster, you can be stronger and you can run for longer if you put the effort in.

From the rookies I saw last year and from what I am hearing from our recruitment team, this year there is going to be a good amount of competition for positions. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for everyone on this team, but if you want that starting spot you need to work hard for it. Even more so for rookies, a good place to start even if you don’t know anything about the game is to get as physically fit and prepared as you can.


 

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Courtesy of a few torn knee ligaments that kept me out for the entirety of the 2014 season, this is where I have spent the majority of my off season…

“You never appreciate being able to play a sport, until you can’t….”

Watching the games this year from the Oxford Saints sideline was not a fun experience, especially when the team is losing. It may well have been the case that I would have made no difference in those games. But being stood there powerless and helpless while watching your team sweating it out on the field is all the motivation I needed to get in that gym and work myself back to fitness.

From not being able to walk without crutches a few months ago, I can now squat, deadlift and run! It’s been fairly steady progress throughout, and I feel I’m just getting to the point where some light positional training will be an option. I have also promised Toby (one of our bigger Defensive Lineman) that I will teach him a thing or two about hitting during this upcoming season (perhaps not my wisest move). So if that isn’t motivation for me to get fitter, I don’t know what is.


As I said in my last blog, if you know absolutely nothing about the game, don’t worry.

My first training session I hardly knew anything. That’s what the off-season is for. When training starts in January 2015, you can pick up the game from training with the team. For now the best advice I can give is watch as many NFL games as you can and if you have it, play Madden on your Playstation/Xbox. That’s how I learnt the basic and so did a fair few other guys! There is also a great education website ran by the professionals over in the NFL, available here – http://www.nfl-360.com/

This is one of my better attempts at the broad jump during my rehab, 2 meters 50 cm which i’m really pleased with.


 

If you are thinking about giving American Football a try this year, try it with us! The best way to stay in contact is through our Facebook page. Keep an eye on this website too!

Speak to you all soon and happy lifting…

Sam Armstrong – Wide Receiver #81