Monday is our film viewing day. The practice squad gets in early because we didn't play the day before. We do lifts and running and then we have our meetings to breakdown the game from the previous day. We have a team meeting, then we have offense, defense and position meetings. This gives us a chance to go through the game in minute detail as it relates to our position. We find out what we've done well and what needs to be improved. We normally get out of the building by 4.30pm on a Monday. I do tend to go to bed early, usually by 9pm at the latest. It's quite funny sometimes because it becomes a competition with my mate on who can get to bed the earliest. We do have to be quite strict during the week but then on the weekends I have a bit more flexibility. It's so important to give yourself time to recover so you are ready for the next day.
Tuesdays is our day off, but here at the Steelers, the practice squad comes in and we lift and run. During the season it's more about maintenance. In the off-season and OTA period you can make some gains and push yourself harder in the weight room and with the running. However, in the season the requirements from practice alone are stressful and strenuous enough. These sessions are more about injury prevention, maintaining muscle mass and conditioning as opposed to trying to increase your bench press or your chin up by a certain amount. This helps us to get ready to perform on the field. It's nothing too crazy. The crazy workouts come in your own time in the off-season. This just keeps us ticking over for the next day.
Wednesday is our main day. I get into the building about 6.15am and lift in the morning. My first meeting starts at 8am and we get out at 10am. After that we'll head to the field for a walk through at around 11am. We do a half an hour walk through with the offense, then the same with the special teams. Then we get a 15-minute break before our two-and-a-half-hour practice with special teams and offense units. For me it's great because I get to go up against guys like TJ Watt, Bud Dupree and Cam Heyward and that's been incredible for my development. In terms of my preparation for being able to play next year, if I can handle those guys, I can handle anyone in the league. Ahead of this practice I'll watch some footage on the tight ends of team what we are playing that week. I'll see if they have any subtle details that will help get guys ready for the game on Sunday. I've trained with some great players over the past year. Guys like Jesse James, Vance McDonald and Xavier Grimble have guided me through and now I've got Nick Vannett from the Seahawks. They were able to keep me level-headed across the journey because it can be a mental grind. Now I'm in my second year I'm really comfortable here. I know the scheme and the playbook. This week I got to have some reps with the 1's as well. Just being able to line up alongside guys like Alejandro Villanueva and David DeCastro is great for my development as I definitely wouldn't have been able to do that last year. I feel like I'm a lot closer.
Thursdays are similar to Wednesdays except you move on to things like Redzone and more situational football. I'll try and eat my carbs around my main training days. I tend to be slightly rotund if I'm not careful, so, I try and watch what I eat. I put on a lot of muscle very quickly and for my position I don't want to be much heavier than I am at the moment. In the season I do a lot of Yoga, about 4 times a week, to make sure I'm loose. During training days I'll be squatting and standing all day, every day so my hips can get quite tight. I'm also constantly sprinting, so my hamstrings need to be nice and loose to be able to perform. As far nutrition goes, in my first year here it did take some adjustment from an English diet to an American diet. I came from rugby where I worked with a nutritionist for 4 years and I never carried an extra pound of fat because it wasn't needed. I've tried to carry the same ethos while I'm here so I'm as lean and efficient as possible.
We call them 'fast Friday' because we're on the field a lot earlier, normally 10.45am and then we're off the field by midday. This is like a rehearsal for the game and we're making sure everything is crisp for the weekend. The level of proficiency and the athletes that you are going up against in the NFL is unrivalled. Even within rugby there is nothing like it. You never have a guaranteed job, it's week to week so you are expected to perform at every single practice and you never know if it's going to be your last. That's a very different mindset to most other sports. It can be tough but I'm very lucky because I have a lot of resources at my disposal. I have mental coaching and I do a lot of meditation as well just to get some space in my brain. I do ten minutes in the morning to prime myself for the day and I also do it at night. I found it quite stressful when I first arrived. I remember going straight to a meeting at 8pm. I got given a stack of 100 plays to learn for the next morning. I went back to my hotel and I remember looking at it like it was gibberish. The next day I was straight into a huddle, listening to a snap count for the first time. It was another language to me. With mental coaching, I've been able to nail it down to a science and routine. I've also learnt that I need to reset. With rugby you're always going so you don't have time to think about the mistakes that you make. However, in American football you have that pause at the end of a play, where you potentially have time to think 'oh that was terrible'. You can be really hard on yourself. Now I'm able to reset really quickly so I forget the last rep. Learn your lesson within four or five seconds and then move on. I've learnt a lot about myself in this whole process, mentally and emotionally. Last year I was going up against TJ and Bud having never played before and I was getting the run around. It's not happening now and I'm taking a lot of confidence from that. I feel very accepted here. I no longer consider myself a rugby player, I consider myself a football player.
Saturday mornings we'll come in for a walk through and then, if it's a road game, the guys will fly out, but we won't travel with the team. On Saturdays I like to catch up with the EPL. I'm an Arsenal fan, for my sins, and we haven't been doing too well. But as long as we beat Spurs I don't mind. There are a lot more EPL fans out here than I expected, so I have some good conversations with them. Occasionally I'll make the odd bet as well with people. It's really strange watching it at 10am in the morning. I tried to keep track of the Rugby World Cup as well. That's probably the biggest thing recently that I was keeping an eye on.
So, then it's game day! Last year we were on the field but this year we are in the stands just behind the side-lines. We go into the locker rooms before and after the games but there isn't a lot we have to do. I like to watch because it gives me a mental rehearsal as well as taking in the atmosphere. You can get a feel for how you would respond in certain situations. It also helps because I can see the coverages in live time. If it's an away game, I'll sit and watch our game and I'll probably watch most of the other games as well. I haven't been around football long enough to take for granted the opportunity to watch and learn from other players. I haven't had time to play NFL fantasy and I don't really understand it. The metrics in NFL fantasy are a bit crazy, maybe next year! I like to keep in contact with other players from the international pathway as they have been a great resource for me. I played against Efe Obada in both my pre-seasons and I messaged him after pre-season to get his opinion. I asked him 'When do you know that you are ready? When does it start clicking' and he replied: 'It's about having those flashes more consistently and being patience because it's a journey. Even now you can have moments when you think you can't execute the most basic thing and then you'll show flashes of brilliance. That's actually what I've found. I'm seeing that growth where all the work over the past two years is paying dividends. I have approached my training like I was doing another degree. I've had to learn over 1000 plays. I was so proud to see Efe Obada in London, knowing him and knowing the journey. I''m not going to be an overnight success. It takes a lot of work but I'm hoping that next year I'll be able to follow his footsteps.