American football star Jack reflects on a rollercoaster of a year in sport
With the 2023 NFL season kicking off this week, Coventry College student and American Football star Jack Redhead has reflected on a rollercoaster debut year in the sport.
Until last year, rugby had always been the focus for me. I was brought up surrounded by the sport and played it from a very young age, and it’s still a huge part of my life now.
I started watching American football regularly last summer and as my understanding of the sport increased, I began to think about what I would be able to bring to the table with my skills as a rugby player.
The idea of a brand-new challenge in a sport that lots of people watch in the UK but that few ever play was really exciting, and with my family’s help and full support from my tutors, I started to look at teams in the region.
My abilities as a rugby player and interest in the sport helped me to get my foot in the door at Tamworth Phoenix, and I ended up playing in a tournament at the end of 2021.
I had to borrow shoulder pads, but the coaches were really impressed with how well I started off. I wanted to make an impact, and I think they could see how motivated I was, and were keen to help me make a successful integration into the sport.
I eventually became a permanent member of the squad. There are only a few teams in the region, so matches can be hard to come by, but whenever I had the chance, I made sure that I made a difference.
I was afforded a little bit of freedom being new to the sport, and I think that took the pressure off from the start and helped me to feel comfortable. As I carried on getting training sessions and matches under my belt, my confidence, and my ability, continued to grow.
Before I knew it, the chance to test how far I had come in just a few months came about. GB American Football invited players across the country to take part in under-17s trials and I was quick to sign up.
Hundreds of players attended the trials, but I managed to stand out and was selected for a 40-player squad to take part in camps and training sessions.
Some of my teammates had been playing at a very high level for years, but my linebacker coach helped me to build my confidence. I learnt a lot at those sessions, and I’m really grateful for the experience.
A couple of months ago, a staff member at Tamworth Phoenix mentioned an under-19s trial for GB to me. I was still eligible for the under-17s, but staff at the club encouraged me to give the older age group a go.
It was a huge step up physically, but I found that I fitted in a lot more with the faster pace and more competitive spirit. I was playing with lads that were already playing for GB, and it showed me a new level that I needed to reach.
I then got an email saying I been successful in the trial, and two days later I joined up with the rest of the squad and headed to Italy for my first international tournament.
I was very surprised at the call up, but knew that I had to take the opportunity with both hands. Some of the other players already had experience at this level, and I was the youngest linebacker in the whole squad.
I was blown away by the experience, stepping out and singing the national anthem and getting minutes at a really high level less than a year into the sport.
It was a great test to see how I would handle the pressure, but helped that I had great coaches supporting me, not just getting used to my teammates, but dealing with a bigger and better opposition.
We came third in our group, which meant we stayed in the same division, and I’m excited to see what other opportunities I can throw myself into over the next year as I’ve been told I should focus on the under-19s as my new benchmark.
Playing rugby with Coventry College has gone a long way to making sure I was up to the challenge physically, and my tutors have been really supportive and helped me to push myself.
Studying sports at college has allowed me to try these new experiences while I learn about something that I’m passionate about, and I think that’s something that applies to all courses.
This season will be my last year at Cov before I apply to university, and I’m excited to carry on playing both sports, and hopefully having a successful season with Coventry College, Tamworth Phoenix, and GB American Football before I make a call on my next play.