This week I had the distinct pleasure of catching up with two of the four of our students, Isaac Perry and James Spicer, who have recently achieved University sporting greatness by lifting a BUCS National Championship with the Durham Saints American Football team. The team defeated Derby for the third time in the season by a score line of 17-6 to end their season undefeated and I managed to get the insight of two of the defensive line who were on the ground at the Sixways Stadium.
Q: Gentlemen, you sit in front of me as National Champions. How does it feel to hear that?
Isaac: I can’t lie that does feel great. Weeks later, I still don’t know how to express it properly, but knowing I got to be part of such a great team with all the talent on the field and the personalities off it is pretty special…. The added label of National Champions is a bonus.
James: It’s a great feeling! Having lost in the national final last year by a missed kick it was such a great experience to be on the winning end this year and it was even sweeter knowing we finished the season 11-0.
Q: Now, despite being National Champions, I know both of you are fairly new to the sport. When did you both start playing?
Isaac: I have dabbled in the past attending a couple training sessions as a Fresher but this was my first year playing the sport properly.
James: I started playing last year as a Fresher having watched the sport for a few years before. There really aren’t any British players who come to University already having played the sport.
Q: Having never played in a National Championship for anything, can you describe the process for me? Is it just like a normal game where you get the coach to the ground or are there a few extra perks?
Isaac: Running out onto the pitch really with the crowd getting loud really got the juices flowing, there was also a ‘mini’ national anthem adding to the professionalism. Additionally, as the game was further away than usual we got a hotel overnight and included the all-important buffet breakfast, which was certainly a nice perk. I certainly wouldn’t mind having that luxury for every game!
Post-game was where the perks really came through, if I’m not mistaken we were posted in the VIP box. There was an open bar for us to open some Champagne and celebrate as well as countless pizzas available to us after the game.
James: As for the day of the game, our preparation doesn’t change, only the atmosphere we are in but it is completely different. We arrive seeing the Division One final being played which allows us time to check out all the camera crew and BAFA (British American Football Association) officials. Also, the facilities are much nicer than the cramped changing rooms we are used to for most of the year!
Q: What’s it like to play in a full stadium in front of a crowd, as well as being streamed to the entire world on YouTube?
Isaac: I do think the stadium alone added to the games atmosphere. The crowd were really energetic and supportive (for both sides) right until the final whistle which was brilliant. Knowing we were being streamed to the entire world did make me nervous, after hearing there would be thousands tuning in I felt the pressure more so than normal. Saying that, I loved that all my friends and family were able to watch and support myself and the team.
James: Having already experienced this the year before as a fresher it wasn’t that overwhelming. However, when you’re playing you’re only focused on what’s in front of you, not who or how many people are watching. The best part of the stream for me was knowing all our old teammates were able to watch from places like America.
Q: I suspect the whole occasion was a bit of a whirlwind and remembering what happened is difficult but are there any standout moments from the game? (We won’t hold it against you if you’re a bit selfish here and mention a moment of personal glory).
Isaac: To be honest, simply being chosen as a starter in the National Championship ahead of a couple ‘veterans’ as a ‘rookie’ (as they’d be referred to in the NFL) was a standout moment for me. But, one of the best moments has to be when Eric Poindexter (our Quarterback, who is actually a wide receiver) came on the field for the defense in the final quarter and broke up a deep pass with a really athletic play on the ball.
James: Probably getting a shout out during the halftime discussion on the live stream for a standout first half performance. Especially as it was by one of my brother’s coaches from Birmingham’s team!
Isaac: Oh and we can hardly forget the moment the final whistle blows! Giving the coach an early shower (pouring the water cooler over him), and the whole team jumping up and down is a memory I’ll never forget.
Q: American Football is a growing sport within the country and obviously you are both now National Champions, so do you see this as being the start of your affinity with the sport?
Isaac: I certainly like that idea; as I’m graduating this year the National Championship may have been my final game, and now that I’ve lived it I’ll definitely do my part in promoting the game in the future as it would be great for the sport to continue growing at the rate it is!
James: As far as playing goes I’ll be pushing for my third national final visit in three years during my final year. But apart from that, I won’t be doing more than watching the sport and going to the occasional Durham game in the future.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me gents, I really appreciate it and hope that you get that opportunity for a third National Championship game next time around James!