Things are getting weirder…

Ok, once again apologies for the delay in blogging. I worked 10 straight days in my day job up until Wednesday and with my attempts to fit training around it, I’ve barely had time to think. I am always tweeting though – @alinthenfl – and seeing as how it’s only 22 days until my date with destiny I’m going to go into update hyperdrive from now-on.

Image

But yeah, things have been getting weirder…

Thursday morning my third instalment of features through my work – http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kentonline/sport/alex-hopes-to-follow-the-11756/ – went live.

Incase you missed it, you can find the first one here http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kentonline/sport/american-dream-for-long-shot-alex-11094/ and the second one here http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kentonline/sport/how-you-can-live-the-11418/

Well I’ll be honest, these pieces don’t generally get much attention, however it seems somebody was taking notice, as UK journalism site extraordinaire posted up this story on Thursday morning too… http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/2014/news/reporter-heads-stateside-for-nfl-trial/

That got a bit more attention, and a dozen or so new twitter followers, however it also got picked up on the other side of the pond.

New York-based website NY Fishbowl came up with this one. http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowlny/alex-hoad-kent-messenger-new-yorj-jets-nfl-combines_b200587 – just for the record, I didn’t get a call or anything, I had no idea these stories were out there until I saw the links. It’s odd getting a taste of being on the other side of the journalism thing.

Image

I’ll have to get used to it however, I have an interview arranged with gridiron magazine next week, some kind of a before and after thing I am led to believe. That’s going to be interesting. I’ve only ever been interviewed by 10-year-olds at Primary School journalism days before. :)

There’s more… I had a good 20 minute chat with Stephen Austin, Director of the NFL Regional Combines on Thursday night. He was very intrigued by all this, but was super-nice and was keen for me to meet up with him before the combine out in Morristown, NJ, and see the facility and get acclimatised properly. I have arranged accommodation in the City already, but I’ll see what I can do about getting out there earlier.

I have also managed to line-up a sports massage for after the flight/before the combine, on the advice of a very helpful sports manager/agent, who has promised to help me out if I need anything. I’ve also be granted access to some awesome health club facilities with hot and cold plunges etc, plus gym, to help with final preparation and recovery in the days leading up to Feb 15.

So you may have noticed already that I have posted a training video, they will get better, I promise. Will see what I can do regarding some more from the gym and also route-running, Three-Cone and Short-Shuttle training on Saturday morning.

Thanks for reading. The more interest there has been, the more pressure I am feeling and the more I am trying to channel that into something positive.

Monday morning….

Wow I ache.

Sunday was the first Mavericks session of 2014 and my first contact session of any kind for a couple of months. Nothing too heavy but takes time to adjust. You can run up hills and use hamstring iso machines and try sprint intervals, but nothing is quite the same as actually running route after route against a DB for a solid 20 minutes without a break. I was hanging.

Decent two hours on the 3G though, and not nearly as muddy as I was the previous day when I was practicing some of the Combine routes I’m going to face in NYC next month with my amateur coach Ray.

Three hours in the mud on Saturday and two hours getting ‘thudded’ on Sunday makes for a very achey Alex on Mondays. Feel terrible today too after staying up to watch the NFL playoffs the past couple of nights, coupled with early mornings. The Chargers always let you down :(

My Monday evening is going to include a hot bath, a foam roller and an early night, because there’s more Mavs training Tuesday night. I’ll probably be daydreaming about this place…….. February 15. 33 days. Eek.

 

37 days to go……

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Please don’t think that because the blog took a break over Christmas and New Year that I did too… nothing could be further from the truth.

I’ve been hard at work, plus doing all the travelling and socialising that comes with the season – though I have continued to exist in my newfound abstemious sportsman ways.

Since beginning this journey I have had precisely zero sweets/candy whatever you want to call them. I have said no something like 500 times when offered tasty treats at friends and relatives houses and repeated my mantra… “I’m eating clean and training dirty.”

I shocked the world as I turned down my traditional four roast potatoes at every sitting this Christmas. I gave Yorkshire puddings and deserts away to work colleagues at festive parties, I went to the cinema and drank a vitamin water and ignored the popcorn and pick n mix.

New Year’s Eve I treated myself to a glass of red wine and a pile of jerky. I’ve even managed to watch the San Diego Chargers games without a beer. I am giving this everything I can.

I managed to get a 30-minute weights session in in a grimy garage on Christmas morning. I got a wicked 16kg kettlebell for Christmas which has been my best good thing ever since. We have a date at 6am each day for 100 swings and some roundabouts.

I have also been doing some actual TE training too. Running some routes, doing some hurdles, skipping, jumping and also posing for pics. A photographer from my local paper came to capture the action for a series of weekly features I’m writing.

The first of which is here: http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kentonline/sport/american-dream-for-long-shot-alex-11094/

Oh my….

Anyway, I have a hotel booked in New York City and flights will follow in the next couple of days. I have ordered the footwear I’m going to use on the day at Florham Park, I’ve found the receiver gloves I am going to buy in the US before the day, and the training is going ok.

Silly season finished this week and everyone is back into their schedule, with me no exception. I’ve had four gym sessions this week already, plus the home workouts, some foam-rolling and tonight I have some indoor five-a-side football (wrong sport, but great to help with cuts, etc).

Keep an eye on the twitter – @AlintheNFL – too as I post pics and stuff more frequently.

I’m working on blog posts about the running, getting some tips from expert coaches and hoping to lay down some times soon.

Thanks for reading. I won’t leave it so long next time.

What I have to do in NYC (Pt 2)

Jump. High.

This one is pretty simple, but along with lifting heavy weights, is going to be the hardest for me to achieve (in my own personal opinion anyway).

The vertical jump is an essential part of the combine. It shows off explosive power in the lower body and it’s something which is going to be pretty crucial.

The NFL site says this:

Vertical jump
The vertical jump is all about lower-body explosion and power. The athlete stands flat-footed and they measure his reach. It is important to accurately measure the reach, because the differential between the reach and the flag the athlete touches is his vertical jump measurement.

Flag, y’hear that? It’s not a fabric thing. This is a metal structure with tons of tiny little stick flags called a Vertec. My job is to jump (I’m allowed to squat down and push up, infact, it’s the only way) and reach up, swatting as high as I can on this flag-pole

The essential number is the one, in inches, which represents the different between the height of my fingertip when stood still, flat footed, on the ground, and the highest metal flag I ‘tip’ out of place. I get two goes at this thing.

Image

What do you think would be a good result for this? I mean, how high do normal people jump? According to Men’s Health magazine (here http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/build-strength-at-any-age/fit_standards.php) an average guy in his late 20s should be jumping about 20 inches. 

NFL athletes are not average guys, however. The record for the NFL combine is…. 46 inches. That is frightening. Remember my ‘inspiration’ Lawrence Okoye? Well, he’s heavier than me and he jumped 35 inches.

The trick to this is immense leg strength – which is probably like 90 per cent of the battle – and 10 per cent technique. There’s no use jumping high if you’re arm is flailing around while you’re on the way down. Got to practice to get the timing right too.

This is one which concerns me just a bit. I have no Vertec at home. I have no idea where the closest one is. The best I can come up with is standing next to a brick wall down near the wheelie bins outside my building and getting a glamorous assistant to bring a stepladder and mark my finger reach in chalk, then take the chalk from them and jump as high as possible to make a mark on the wall. Then, in theory, measure the difference between the two and…. voilà.

If I can’t do something like 25 inches straight off then there might be no point at all. I’m working hard on leg strength. Lots of squats in the gym and plenty of hamstring curls, quad extensions, calf work. I have had 5×5 recommended to me and I’m pretty much adopting this for all weights work now. I previously did lighter sets with more reps, not any more. Five sets of five reps with heavy weights is the way forward I think. Any advice? Feel free to drop me a line alinthenfl@gmail.com

What I have to do in NYC (Pt 1)

Tags

, , , , , ,

There are a series of drills and tests you have to go through at the NFL combine. They have been chosen specifically to show your athletic ability with every single decimal point of data giving an indication (generally a pretty strong one) of how good you’re actually going to be at the game of football.

Now just because you can run fast, jump high and are tough to knock off the ball, doesn’t necessarily mean you can catch, or throw, or beat a defender, however if you don’t have speed, jumping ability and toughness then it pretty much doesn’t matter how good a catch you are or how far you can throw. You’re not going to make it.

This is sort of the bridge I need to cross. I have certain things which come pretty naturally to me. Being 6’4″ for example. And weighing over 19st. Those two things have been pretty consistent since I was about 17. I also spent more than half my life throwing myself around playing in goal, so the jumping and catching thing I am pretty ok at too.

The rest of it is all a bit of an unknown. But that’s what I’m here to find out. I have never trained like a pro athlete. I didn’t grow up in a school system like the US where I would have been forced to play football from the age of about five, just because I was vast. I have a level of fitness and athletic ability which is almost certainly better than some and worse than others. I’m going to be working hard to improve as much as possible before February 15.

The 40-yard dash is one of the blue-ribbon events at the combine. It’s like the Olympic 100m. It needs very little introduction (well, unless you’re in England, maybe!). If you say, ‘oh yeah, I run a four-five,’ people will know it takes you 4.5secs to run 40-yards… 36.6m… from a standing start.

At the combine there are speed sensors at 10, 20 and 40 yards to give accurate readings of your time. You get two gos at getting it right.

So what do I need?

Well depending on what position you play, you are looking at anything from 4.25secs to 5.5secs.

Image

The slowest time I can see recorded is an offensive lineman – the huge guys who way 20 stone-plus and block people, trying to protect their QB from people running from the other side. They don’t need to run 40yds ever. They just need to be strong as a bear and agile enough to move side to side to prevent people getting round them. A guy called Josh Hall seemingly ran 6.21secs over 40yds in 2006.

At the other end of the scale are wide receivers and running backs who generally need to run further and faster. The record since electronic timing came in is Chris Johnson’s 4.24 in 2008. Legend has it that Bo Jackson ran a hand-timed 4.12 in 1986, which is just unfathomable.

Anything under 4.40 is seen as Elite, even in NFL standards, whereas 4.40-4.80 is about right depending on your position. Now I am trying to be a Tight End. Someone who occasionally has to go toe to toe with the big boys on the line and occasionally needs to break away and storm off downfield to catch a pass and take it home. In an absolute ideal world I’m looking for 4.60. That would most likely turn heads. Anything over 5.0secs at this point would turn heads the other way.

A year ago Lawrence Okoye ran 4.84 at the combine. He’s bigger and younger and heavier than me, but doesn’t play in the same position as me. My very first aim is to get to a track and get someone to time me and for that time to be under 5.0secs. Aim two is to get that time under Lawrence’s time. Aim three is to get that time under 4.75secs. Aim five, before February 15, is to get that time as close to 4.6secs as I can.

To put into context two of the TE’s I’d be more than happy to emulate are Antonio Gates (San Diego) and Jason Witten. They ran 4.60 and 4.67. Jimmy Graham, who like me came to the game later than most, ran a 4.58. That’s the dream.

I have never once been timed over 40. I have no idea what to expect. I’ll let you know when I know how it’s going. In the meantime if anyone has any tips, help, advice, or a stop-watch and wants to help, then please don’t be a stranger. Tweet or email me. It’s tough doing stuff like this on your own.

Oh, Justin Gatlin ran 4.42secs. Just for comparison.

Err, what?

Tags

, , ,

Hello. I’m Alex. I am British and I play a bit of American football.

Now seeing as how I was born in the 80s I figured my chances of making it as a professional athlete were probably behind me. Mine is a pretty short and dull story of the squandered talent of youth and missed opportunity. It wouldn’t make great reading, so I’d rather not write it, if that’s ok with you? Might be too painful.

As the months and years tick by I have been increasingly scared by the prospect of looking back at my life when I hit my mid-30s and wondering (or more probably realising) where it all went wrong. Where I allowed myself to step-off the path towards a life in sport which seemed so unshakeably inevitable all the while I had the fearless, unfaltering self-confidence of youth.

 

However, whether I deserve it or not (popular opinion seems to be not), I have one last shot at making something of myself in the world of professional sport – a world to which I have dedicated my life: my career as a sports journalist, my money, my free-time, 92% of my waking thoughts… pretty much everything infact. 

This week I was given with the chance to go and work out infront of scouts from the NFL in New York City on Saturday, February 15, 2014, at 12.30pm. On that day I will be poked, prodded, measured and ordered through a series of tests and drills. It won’t be like sports day, but I know as well as you will, this is the only chance I’m ever going to get.

The only thing I plan on leaving on the artificial turf in the NY Jets practice facility (which is thankfully indoors) is data. My times, distances and numbers will be fed into a computer programme and circulated to the coaching staff of the 32 NFL teams, including the one I stay up until Lord knows what time of the morning throughout the autumn and winter to ‘support’ from afar – the San Diego Chargers – plus any Canadian or Arena football league pro teams who want-in too.

Today is Thursday, December 5. I have 72 days to prepare for the only chance I’m likely ever to get. I’ll use this site, and the twitter account @AlintheNFL to keep you up to date with my preparation. There is a lot of work to do. It’s not going to be fun for me, but some of it might just be for you.

I don’t want to have any regrets. I don’t want to think I didn’t give it everything. I want to prove something to people, and myself too. I’m old, but not too old. This might not really be a pathway to fame and fortune, but be honest, you have to say it looks pretty good seeing Al in the NFL. 

Image

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 52 other followers