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.

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