Player Interview: Adam Ridgewell of the East Kent Mavericks

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Jack CamplingInterview
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So, Adam, tell us a little bit about yourself to get things started; where are you based, what team do you play for and how long have you been playing?

So I’m a 21-year-old Running Back currently playing for the Canterbury Christ Church Chargers and the East Kent Mavericks. This is my 8th season playing and I started out in the Essex Spartans Academy.

For a 21-year-old, it sounds like you’re firmly rooted in the sport already and potentially have a good number of years playing ahead of you. I think most people who play football have an influence or role model that they want to be like or take motivation from. What got you into the sport, did you take inspiration from anyone in particular?

I never really had a real inspiration when it came to American football. Obviously, you always look up to the guys in the pros and want to be where they are, but I think the biggest motivators I had when I first started were my dad and my academy head coach Steve Watson (Essex Spartans Academy).

I think the football scene is growing faster than ever in the UK. Obviously, the National Football (NFL)  international games which are a perennial occurrence. This year saw the first Canadian Football League (CFL)  combine in this country, the NFL academy has been established for a few years now and there are a number of British athletes reaching European leagues like German Football League (GFL) and European League of Football (ELF)  etc. With so many development options and international pathways now available to British players, what are your thoughts on this for the growth of the game?

I feel like the British game is growing at an insane rate at all levels. The opening of leagues like the ELF and organisations like the NFL academy give players a lot more to work for, whereas representing Great Britain (GB) – which is still a massive honour – would sometimes be as far as the rabbit hole went for most players. I think that the gap between Britball and the GFL is just a lot smaller now than in previous years because of the diversity in leagues. The best players are getting pro contracts in leagues like the ELF and I think it’s reducing the disparity in skill level between domestic leagues. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take the route of the NFL academy because I just exceeded the age bracket, but with the game growing as it is, you never know what opportunities could come up each year.

On a personal level, do these new opportunities motivate you to take the sport more seriously? Does the idea of playing the sport professionally appeal to you, especially now that there are so many opportunities to get a foot in the door?

If you’d have told 13-year-old me just starting my first session, that there would be opportunities for me to play professionally in Europe, I would never have believed you! Now it’s a reality, though, it is a massive motivator for me, but I wouldn’t say that it’s changed my work ethic at all. I’ve been gunning for a chance at a GB spot since I started playing.

So you mentioned that you missed out on an NFL Academy spot in 2019 because of your age. That must’ve been pretty tough to take! How did that make you feel? Did that change any plans for you, both immediate and long-term?

Being one year too old to join the NFL academy was definitely frustrating when it first happened, especially since I’d just picked up my A-level results when the programme was announced. After I’d had a little bit of a rant about it, though, I realised that with me being too old, it didn’t really change anything for me and I just needed to keep working. Whilst it was annoying to not be able to be a part of the NFL academy, I was able to get myself a scholarship to study and play football at Canterbury Christ Church, so it all worked out in the end.

What do you think about the structure of the league in GB with regard to how this grants access to European opportunities? Do you think that you have to play in the premiership to A) be considered a top-level British baller (and within that is it Warriors/Blitz or bust) and B) a player who could feasibly make it as an international baller?

The league system in GB, in my opinion, works really well and is very inclusive for everyone. I think it allows the opportunity for new players to join at any age and still have the chance to compete. It’s definitely easier to get yourself noticed in the Prem and I feel that the likes of the London Warriors, London Blitz and Manchester Titans etc. are usually at the top of that pile, however I don’t think it’s impossible to get yourself noticed without being in the premiership. I feel like if you want to play internationally, though, the Prem is where you’re going to get the best preparation for that.

I think I’d have to agree with you. I think you are definitely going to get the best preparation for any form of international football by playing for the highest achieving teams in the country, who compete at the top level against the best athletes. With that in mind, what’s the number one piece of advice you would give to yourself (in hindsight) as a rookie when you first started playing the sport?

The one piece of advice I’d give myself as a rookie would be to do more sport-specific training in the gym. Not every exercise that you see bodybuilders doing will help you in the long run.

I like that advice, Adam. Obviously the top players of any sport train regularly and I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing the same as everyone else in the gym or just copying what you read online. It’s important to consider what might be beneficial to you and to remember why you’re actually in the gym. So what’s your goal in this sport; what’s your endgame? Where do you see yourself in 1 year… 2 years… 5 years? Do you have any specific targets for the future, or an ideal realistic outcome for you?

Next year will be my third year of university, so my goal is to get to the GB student’s all-stars game. After that, I want to start working on my training business, so I’m not too sure if it will be the right time for me to be making a push toward the ELF or any national leagues like the GFL.

But I’ll always be working for a GB spot. I wouldn’t write off pushing for the opportunity of international football in a few years though.

Let’s have a little bit of fun to wrap it up with a few quick-fire questions:

  • Favourite NFL Team? Arizona Cardinals.
  • SpeedFlex or F7? SpeedFlex.
  • Oakies Now : Make the tackle on Derrick Henry or Carry the ball against Darius Leonard? Carrying the rock against Darius Leonard.
  • Oakies Then : SOS Marshawn Lynch or Ray  Lewis? Trying to tackle Marshawn Lynch.
  • Last play: Game saving tackle or walk off TD? Game winning walk off TD.
  • Favourite Football Movie Friday Night Lights.
  • Super Bowl winner for the 2022/23 NFL season I think it might be the Bills’ year.
  • Fantasy Football, standard rules. Who’s your 1st overall pick? Gonna have to go with JT (Jonathan Taylor).

Thank you Adam, some interesting points in there. All the best for the rest of the season with the East Kent Mavericks and for the upcoming University season.

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