The NFL in Ireland – Part 1 (Landon Collins and Alex Collins )
On Friday morning I had the privilage of attending an event with Two-time Superbowl winning coach Rob Ryan, Seattle Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas, New York Giants Safety Landon Collins and Baltimore Ravens Running Back Alex Collins : Where I had the opportunity to watch them learn to play Gaelic football and hurling, and to interview each of them. Also in attendance were Kilkenny hurler Jackie Tyrell and Dublin Footballer Mossy Quinn, to try and teach the NFL stars to play the Irish games.
When each of the players arrived they were very friendly and enthusiastic, and were eager to try their hand at GAA. After some instructions from the Irish players they first tried Football and then Hurling. Starting off a little wobbly in each sport, it didn’t take long for them to be fully up to speed, and they all scored goals on the Irish GAA players. I fully believe that they could be top GAA players in no time. They all had fun and were delighted to learn the sports, as you will see in the videos throughout the article, and the slideshow at the bottom of the page.
After playing the sports, they each sat down for an interview with me. In this article I will cover the interviews with Landon Collins and Alex Collins:
What do you think of the JPP Trade?
I don’t know, When we get in and talk to the coaches we’ll figure that one out. It happened so quickly that I was in the plane (in the air) when it happened. When I heard of it, I was like Wow!
Do you think this will impact the draft pick? Obviously the Giants don’t plan on being number 2 anytime soon again, and this could be a great time to pick a QB, but now people are saying Chubb could go number 2. What are your views on it?
I don’t know. My view is I love Eli, Eli is my QB and I stick with Eli, but that’s up to the front office. I mean, I’ve got no say so with what’s going on but I love Eli, and then I feel like once Eli retires and his time is done, we still have Davis Webb who is a great QB. He’s been putting out good games, he has a great knowledge of the game and we’ve found a great QB and it’s only year 3 for him you know. Sohaving the knowledge of a great QB, why not put him in the game. I mean that’s like when Brett Favre left the GB Packers: Aaron Rodgers came in and look at Aaron Rodgers now I mean, so I see that we need to stick with Davis Webb.
It could be a good chance to bring in someone like Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold to compete with Davis Webb. Eli is 37 years old now and might have a few years left. Would that be something you’d like, for one of them to come in and sit behind him for a few years?
Yes, if a guy will like to sit behind a QB that’s cool. I know I wouldn’t like that stature if I’m a number 2 draftee. When you draft a QB that high you expect him to play not sit on the sideline.
What improvements do you think the Giants need to make so they won’t be in the number 2 spot again next year?
The only thing right now is that we are working on the offensive line. We did some major changes over there to help with our running game and our passing game, give Eli some time to throw the ball. If he’s got time he’s a great QB, he’s an MVP QB
How difficult is it in a city like New York where there is so much media coverage when the season isn’t going to plan?
It’s horrible man, it’s like knives being thrown at you every week. Everyone praying for the best, but you’re not getting results. It’s hurtful, there are some rugged fans out there but at the same time it means they love the game, they love the team, they want us to win, and we know they care if they’re that way.
How big of a loss overall to your season was the Beckham injury last year?
It was a big loss, even though it ended his season it was not just him, we lost 3 of our WR’s in one game. If it was just him then we kept at least 2 or 3 of them and it would’ve been a little bit better of a season, we would’ve got to do something with the ball, but we lost 3 or 4 guys in that game. It was like basically dying and trying to revive yourself, constantly, constantly, constantly. Especially when Odell went down, he’s kind of like the heart of that offence. He’s like the focal point. I would say the voice, he’s the leader, one of the leaders over there, alot of the guys follow him. They look up to him, when he’s playing good, they’re all playing good, because once all of the pressure is on Odell, somebody else starts bombing, but when they all went down, it’s like we have nobody any more.
Do you think all of the guys getting hurt contributed to Eli getting benched, and the negativity towards him?
That’s a good question. I don’t think that Eli being benched was without reasoning, I think that it was deeper than that. I don’t really have the answer for that, but I feel like it was deeper than that.
What way do you mean deeper?
It was deeper into the office, I mean it was more upstairs in control of that situation. It wasn’t within the team or the players saying that we need to put somebody else in, because if you go to any and every guy that’s in our locker room they would’ve said Eli is your No.1
Was there any personality clashes?
No not personalities, because Eli is Eli. He’s not a person that’s going to fight back and forth if you make a decision you make a decision and he’s going to go by that, and he’s always going to be a team player. He is going to be a person to help regardless of the fact. When Eli knew he was getting benched he was helping Geno, he was helping Davis, he knew who was going to play but he was helping both in how to play and take ownership of the offence.
You were there for the filming of the Eli/Odell dirty dancing advertisement.
Oh yeah yeah yeah
Did they actually do it or was there camera tricks?
No they had a harness on Odell. Eli is strong but you know….
How much worse does it make it for the Giants when Philly goes and does what they did as well?
Oh man! It was kind of hard watching both teams as you didn’t want either one to win. It was definitely hard to watch. I mean, I give them respect, they beat the Patriots and it’s hard to beat the Patriots at that level. So we’ll give them their respect and look forward to playing them next year. They weren’t supposed to beat us the 1st time we played them, it was just by that fluke field goal, but we’re definitely going to give them their moneys worth this year.
You’re going through a coaching change, and as one of the best players in the league defensively how will it impact your game? Do you think it will improve it even more?
I wouldn’t say it’ll impact my game. Most likely, the only way it’ll impact my game is just learning the defence. We’ve got a new defensive coordinator, so really it’s just learning a new defence, but I pick up on defence really quick, so it’s just seeing the wording of how the defence is with our new coach. We have to be on the same page and have an understanding of each other…if it’s mutual then it’s going to be easy.
Looking forward to next season, a lot of expectation on those young shoulders?
Yeah, for sure.
You welcome that I’m sure?
Definitely. We have something to work for just based off of how are season ended. We had a real good run with a few consecutive wins towards the end of the season and just had to capitalise that last game to move on to the play-offs having that taken away from us gives us a lot of motivation going into next year. You know, just building from that, we have a lot to work for – trying to get into the play-offs for next year. Definitely holding that in the back of our minds and looking forward to this offseason.
You must be thrilled personally with how you played last year?
Oh yeah. Starting from where I started on the practice squad working my way all the way up to starting Running Back, definitely didn’t see it coming. But, the work ethic behind doors is what I was looking for and hoping for and expecting. Just putting that in my mind that it is possible, and then seeing it come true was just amazing to see.
Had you set any targets for yourself?
When I was going into the practice squad I came over and my main focus was to come in, give it 110% effort and not let anyone outwork me. Just coming in with that mindset to attack everything regards the playbook, the onfield conditioning and the weight room and just every day going at it and trying to be the most conditioned guy, trying to just build my strength and learn the playbook as fast as I could so I’m always available and I know what I’m doing and I’m ready – and that’s what it came down to.
One of my guys pulled his hamstring and he had to miss weeks, and it was outta me and this other guy from before and it was just a neck and neck kind of deal, and if I didn’t have the playbook down I don’t think I would be here today.
Just trying to stay on top of everything, just how I looked at it, was always wanting to have the answer.
What can you do in year 2 to take you on another step and improve even further?
Definitely just keep going from where I left off. With injuries, you always want to take care of yourself. You always want to have a routine and that’s what’s most important and I feel like those guys are the most successful guys. And that’s who I attach myself to, like Earl Thomas because I was with the Seahawks for a little bit, and they really taught me routine.
Just watching them and getting a feel for them because I’m coming in and I’m new and I’m trying to last as long as they’ve been in the league and I’m just trying to catch what they’re doing. When you set that routine, set that schedule, it motivates you. You don’t slack off, you don’t lose focus, lose sight of what you’re working for. If I’m waking up every morning and I’m in a sauna and a steam room and a hot tub and a cold tub just taking care of my body, and eating healthy, eating breakfast at the right time and not overeating. I’m not sleeping late, I’m not out partying, I’m not drinking alcohol, just having that mindset and you just keep stacking days on top of days – you’re only way is up. You’re going to get better every day, you’ll get stronger, healthier, faster, and you’ll just feel much better.
But, if you’re inconsistent, you’ll never know what the problem is or what you’re doing wrong or what you need to fix. So if I have this constant schedule and then one week I slack off – ok I wasn’t sleeping well that week or I wasn’t eating right, oh I was eating fast food – then it’s easier to figure out what the problem is and stopping it, instead of just having this go with the flow kind of mindset and not knowing what to do next.
It’s a league of Fine margins, as you said you’re doing everything the same from the practice squad to starting does it take a little bit of luck to get to the top?
Definitely. Definitely. When you look at it, there’s thousands and thousands of guys in the same positions. Some guys are faster, some are stronger, some are smarter or some guys have better technique. And you just always think how can I put myself above these guys and be the guy that they want to be out there. And it’s all consistency and trust and a little bit of luck. And capitalizing on every opportunity. You pretty much want the coach, when they look at you and they see you on the sideline they want to be able to look at you and know that they can trust you and not have to worry like he’s been kind of messing up in practice. You know, when it’s like that mindset, they 100% trust you, so it’s no question they’ll just throw you out there and that’s a healthy relationship.
But if it’s on and off, some days he’s up and some days he’s energetic and learning and other days he’s down in the dumps, I don’t know what guy I’ll get out there on the field – that’s the difference. I’m going to the guy who’s not down every time. That’s how I look at it in my mind, I want them to look at me and I’m locked in. I’m in their eyes, I want them to know I’m ready at all times.
Was that what the team was like last year, sometimes up, sometimes down? Do you think the team will be more consistent next season?
That was the thing with us. We had an up and down season. It was just mainly because everybody wasn’t on the same page and then we got into that consistency and started winning. It was just because everybody had the same mindset, the same goals. You know, the little stragglers stopped going out. Everybody was just together.
Even when we were down in the game, we were able to pull ourselves back into the games just by being there for each other and just being on the same page. The last game was just an unfortunate, bad luck kind of situation. Last play of the game, we had the whole game taken away from us. We actually had it, there was like one minute left in the game, we were up by three points – everything was good, but one play cost us the season. One play. And we just go build from that. We know what we did, what worked last year, what didn’t work – and that’s just something we work with in the off season with everybody working out and everything and training together, building relationships so when the next season starts, from day 1 we’ll have that same fire and look in our eyes that we had at the end of the season. And that’s the plan. It doesn’t always turn out the way you look at it, you gotta go with how things are turning out, but our mindset and our plan is to just built from where we left off.
How mentally resilient is Joe Flacco when he hears a lot of criticism or people saying is he Elite?
When you look at it in that aspect that alone tells his resilience and strength because with him being the focal point and everyone having their say saying “Is he still elite? Can he do this, can he do that” and him having to block everything out and still having that same mind set and that same focus I give all the praise to him because I’m right next to him. I see the media attacking and the tweets and everything. One bad game and the whole world crashing own on him and to stay locked in, to be able to bounce back and it keep the team in it and to not even let it bother him you’ve got to be strong I give him all the credit for it.
If you were the GM who would you draft this year for the Ravens?
If I was the GM I’d stay away from running backs! Everyone else but running backs! Honestly, if I was GM they can pick whoever as long as it is not a running back I’m happy.
What do you think of Saquon Barkely?
He’s a good guy, I’ve watched his highlights. That’s one of my things as a running back, I feel if you’re not watching similar guys in your position then you should be worried. You don’t know what these guys bring to the table, I always want to put myself above someone else based off of what he is good at and what I can do different.
In this instance he’s a big, strong, powerfu guyl. If he was in the same team as me, I would copy his style but add to it so whatever he is good at, I’d be good at the same thing and then they’d look at us and say “I’ve got the same guy” then it’d be who’s healthier but then I would that I would be a little bit more elusive, or that I can catch better just to put myself above him and that’s just how I look at it.
How did you get into Irish dancing
I originally got into it because my high school head coach, his daughter competes in it and goes to Oireachtas. Just from the beginning in high school it was brought to me and I didn’t start practicing until I went to college. I used to drive her to her practices and one day she challenged me saying “hey, you think you can try it?” and I was like I know I can try it but I’m not trying it. It ended up being more of a competitive thing between me and her. I’d go to her classes and warm up with her and compete with her and then it got into the football world because it was hard, just the conditioning stand point. I’m bouncing around, I’m in there sweating and it’s only been 1 minute in, and the girls are laughing at me so it was definitely hard trying to pick it up and then seeing how much more explosive I was with lower body strength. I’m looking at these girls and their calf muscles are about the same size as mine.
It definitely helped and getting out to the field and seeing how much quicker my feet are and getting in and out of cut and seeing how much more explosive is what it is all about in my position, being explosive, breaking through tackles, getting in and out of cuts, in and out of holes and it helps.
I was like “why not keep this going and see how far this will take me” and it has taken me a long way and I don’t plan to stop. If I practiced right now as soon as I start I guarantee you (I’d be sweating). The shirt first and then everything and I’d be drenched, it’s real tough but I enjoy it.
Have you any gigs here?
Hopefully I can showcase my skills. I can do a little bit.
Is it something you do weekly
We had on the 10th March a little parade and I was part of the parade with Drake School of Irish Dance down in Fort Lauderdale and we’d go through the city and they’d stop and we’d have to do a little performance. We were just dancing around and it was a lot of fun.
Is there anything else outside the box that you’ve done to help your game?
I’ve always had that mind set. Irish dance is what got the outside world to see the out of the box mind set. When I was in high school my head football coach, which is how I got into Irish dance, he always believed in going out there and try something else. Don’t just be football football football all the time. When I was in high school I ran track and I played Lacrosse and I was just always doing different stuff to stay conditioned. Lacrosse was big with me because of hand-eye co ordination, the condition and running down and back. It just kept me in good football shape. I’ve always had my mind open to try new things so when Irish dance came about I was just like let me see what this is all about. Any little thing, for instance if another player came and told me this is what works for them I’d definitely try it to see what works for me.
Did any of your teammates ask about your Irish dance
They’ve been calling and asking can they come Fort Lauderdale so hopefully there’ll be few more Irish Dancers on the Baltimore Ravens.
Are you going to keep it as your Celebration
Oh yeah, that’s my celebration from now on. Hopefully I can learn something over here and take it over there and let them know that I have something. A Surprise!
Do you find there is a big difference between the College game and the NFL? Is there a big leap?
Oh yeah! The biggest difference is definitely the speed of the game and that’s the main disconnect. When you go from college to pro and the whole speed changes, your whole mind set changes. It definitely threw me off in my rookie year trying to catch up with everything, because everything is moving so fast and you have to think a lot faster and you have to react a lot faster, and that is where the training for it comes in because want to be able to keep up with everybody. When I first got into the NFL there was a drop in my performance until I could figure it out that I have to make my decisions a lot faster and a lot quicker than I did.
In college I paced myself and everything would play out and I’d just attack the holes, but it is like split second decisions and if you don’t take it now it won’t be there, and it’ll close in an instant. These guys are a lot bigger and stronger, the defensive line men are about the same speed as me, so like laterally, it’s hard trying to out run people so that is the biggest difference just being able to speed your mind up with the game, and figure out that it’s my mind and my speed that is making me not successful – and learning the schemes and everything, in college I wasn’t too good with the playbook, I didn’t study defences. I’d just go out and play football but trying to do that in the NFL won’t last long, you have the figure the defence out and know what schemes you’re looking at, and definitely become more of a book smart player in the league to be successful.
Part 2 will follow shortly with some more pictures and video and will feature the interviews with Earl Thomas and Rob Ryan
This OTI Piece was written by James Maguire. James is a NY Giants fan from Westmeath, Ireland. He is a huge fan of the NFL and watches several games each weekend. He has been playing Fantasy Football for over 10 years with great success in all types of leagues. Most of his articles focus on Fantasy Football covering a range of topics relevant to both Dynasty and Redraft leagues. Check him out on twitter @JamesMaguire21