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…

1548111_666378520092897_1175643422_o

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.

11836690_881500635259668_172793691933982151_n

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.

10583833_10100138163194493_3737486584660960440_n

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.

Comments