The NFL in Ireland – Part 2 (Earl Thomas and Rob Ryan)
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 part 1 I covered the interviews with Alex and Landon, which you can read here – http://overtimeireland.com/the-nfl-in-ireland-part-1-landon-collins-and-alex-collins/
In this article I will cover the interviews with Earl Thomas and Rob Ryan
Your contact situation is a little unknown at present, How soon do you think that will be sorted out?
The ideal situation would be as soon as I get back to the states I hear some good news. Other than that it’s a guessing game, of course I’ll talk to my agent but I don’t know.
How difficult is it from a personal point of view? Is it frustrating not knowing if your going to be staying in Seattle or moving to somewhere like Dallas?
I’m thinking of it like this: If I’m in Seattle I’m going to be a very happy and rich man, if I’m in Dallas or wherever I’m going to be, then I’m going to be a happy and rich man too, so I’m just going to control what I can control and that’s it.
Does it feel strange how things have changed in Seattle, since the Legion of Boom days?
I’ve been there since the beginning and it’s definitely weird to see all of the changes that have been going on. Especially with guys like Sherm, your brother who you’ve had so much success with, we’ve won the Superbowl, we’ve won so many big games. Now he’s in our division, we’re playing against him now and it’s different, but we’ll see what happens.
Is it true that you grew up a Cowboys fan, coming from Texas.
Yeah, my dad made sure I was a Cowboys fan.
Would you have gone to game as a child?
Just TV, Tv and Troy Aikman, Emmett Smith, Deon Sanders, they had like VH1 tapes with fooball camps and I’d be one of those kids that’d watch every step.
After 8 years in Seattle, you must be very connected to the City and the Club.
Yeah, they gave me my shot, and I put everything I had in that organisation. My wife loves it, my daughter loves her school, that’s all I’ve known, I definitely don’t want to go anywhere else. I love it.
There’s alot of trading going on at the moment, much more than previous years. What would you put that down to?
You know there’s alot of storylines and that makes people excited about the game and keeps the game fresh. There’s nothing wrong with a fresh start for the guys getting traded, so that’s how I’d look at it.
It can be a short career, so you have to do what’s best for you?
When you’re hot you’ve got to go and get your money. So I never get mad at a guy if he wants to go to a place that’s going to better him and his family, because that’s what it’s all about.
Playing in your position, how difficult is it do balance tackling aggressively and the increased awareness about safety?
Right, so I think there’s a fine line, and if you really study the game, study your movements and understand your responsibilities you can be precise in your movements. You don’t have to be all loud and crazy and you get money taken out of your pocket beacause that’s a no go. I’m glad they’re changing the rules because the game needed to be safer. I wouldn’t want my son to not be able to remember anything. You know.
Would you go further and change more rules?
No, you’ve got to keep it football still, you can’t take the physicality out of it totally. That’s my take on it.
What’s it like playing under Pete Carroll?
Pete man, I’m blessed playing under Pete. He’s very energetic. He motivates us, he understands his players. He treats everybody different but there’s no give and take. He keeps it fresh and he keeps us in tune.
He makes his biggest impact when we lose a game, he brings the energy to guys that are down, to guys that can’t see it’s just one loss and we’ve got to keep going. The guys that have been here since day 1 are kind of brainwashed under his philosophy, because he says the same thing every year.
Now that alot of the other Legion of Boom members are gone, what will you bring to the team as the leader?
If you look back at our history, I was the first guy out there already. Sherm was a young guy at one point, Cam was a young guy at one point, I’m going to do just what I did with them. I’m going to feed them, encourage them saying things like “You’re a beast”, “You can do this”, and eventually they start to believe that, and they’re making plays and they’re all pros and we’re winning big games.
As one of the best defensive players in the league, is there any team or player who you love or hate to play against?
I like playing against Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. You know, the guys that people are saying are the best. So you have something to prove.
The protest of the anthem was a huge issue last season, do you think this will continue into the new season?
From my prespective, I would think that it would be done, but you know guys are going to do what they want to do. I don’t know how much momentum it will carry to next season.
What do you think of guys using their status to protest different issues?
I think it sparks great conversation in the locker room, and I’m always down for learning something new. When guys like Michael Bennett come in, he shares what’s on his heart. It kind of gives me a different perspective, I’m like, I’m going to do some research, because there’s more than football.
In the offseason do you like to get away and get outside of the bubble of professional sports?
Oh yeah, it’s the real world. If you stay in football you’re not going to be prepared for the real world, you’ll get eaten up. You’re so protected in that bubble
Is it important to have that preparation done for when you retire, so that you can adapt to life after football?
Definitely! Everybody goes through something different. Guys bang their heads through their whole career and then when they get out they don’t have the help that they need, but I think the NFL does a great job preparing guys for that, by having different workshops, and they give you different opportunities
What else would you do in the offseason?
Be with my family. Be a family man. My wife take me on this great journey. We’ve been together since high school and she loves football.
Is there any rule you would like to change in the NFL?
I think the game doesn’t need much changing, it’s still the most viewed sport in the world, and it’s still the best. There’s been some changes that are helping our players with their life after football, and I’m all for that because that best thing about the NFL is our players.
Who do you like in the upcoming draft?
I like Chubb, I love the linebacker (Smith) from georgia, he’s an outstanding footballer in this class. Without watching all of the tape that you need to evaluate players I hate to say too much. I wathced some of the bowl games, but I was watching the NFL for Sky and Fox, but I know there’s always talent every year. The biggest thing that they are going to notice in the NFL is that the game is so fast, that’s the biggest difference.
The Browns hold the 1st and 4th pick in the draft, and most are saying they will take 2 offensive players. As a defensive coach what do you think of this?
Last year they took the number 1 player in the draft who was a defensive player. That team has so much defensive talent on it. They’ve had so many choices, now they have blown a few, but I was defensive Coordinator there for 2 years and they have some unbelievable fans, and they deserve a winner. Hopefully they take the right guy with the first and 4th pick, god knows they’ve had opportunities. They passed DeShaun Watson by, which was probably the dumbest thing that they’ve ever done, and they year before they did the dumbest thing by letting Carson Wentz go, so I don’t know, maybe they’ll get it right this time. It’d be hard to blow he 1st pick in the draft every year.
What did you think of the anthem protests?
I think it’s finished, but there’s a definite need for the guys to get their views out. I think the whole Kaepernick thing got overblown, and I think everybody should stand to attention for their country. It’s not just the whole sideline standing, it’s the whole stadium, so that’s what I have difficulty with
I coached Malcolm Jenkins and I’m proud of what he did. He went out and got his guys and got a solution to the problem, and it took him every day on his day off to go in and get that started. With what they’re doing now in the league, there’s a platform for guys to speak out, and I think it’s great, and they are doing it better. It’s a better way to show respect for your country as well.
Has it been a helpful thing in society in general?
I don’t know, I think peoples opinions and beliefs are what they are, and I’ve never been a politically correct person. I’ve had views, but usually I keep them to myself, but if you need change the best way to have change is to be heard. The players wanted to do something about what they thought was wrong, and they found a better way to go around and get it done than originally. Just because you originally thought it was going to be a platform to stand for, you found a better way to do it than offending other people. I think if you’re bold enough to stand out and do something, you need to be bold enough to listen and hear what you should do. I love football that’s never going to change it’s in my blood, it’s important to me and the players that play it, and the players that we have here today are all great men. They are what the NFL is about. They’re compassionate, they’re tough, they’re smart, they’re competitive, they’re selfless, they’re hardworking, and football is important. Other things outside the lines, that happens in every line of work, not just football.
Do you think football will always be central to American life and won’t slip in popularity?
I think football is the greatest game that has ever been invented. I was born into it, but I think it’s always going to be that way. It’s the most entertaining sport there is, it’s the most competitive, it’s played by our best and most talented athletes, our toughest athletes, the alpha males. It’s played that way. Just like I’m sure the Gaelic Football and the Hurling, and the boxing, the UFC – they’re your toughest athletes, and American Football has our toughest and best.
What do you think of the XFL?
Yeah, I think the more jobs it opens the better. It gives people more opportunity to provide for their families. Vince McMahon is a promoter, whatever he touches turns to gold, and I think he’ll do a great job with American Football. The XFL has sweet nicknames and things like that, it’s entertaining, I watched it. In America, football is so popular, there’s enough to go around.
How far back have you traced your family tree?
I wanted to go all of the way back, I know both sides of my family are Irish, with Ryan and Ward. I should be able to drink some Guinness and fit right in , which I proved last night in a local bar, and that was fun. I brought my whole family here to see Ireland, and know this is where my family grew up. I don’t have the exact location, so I just want to take it all in and meet the people, I know it’s a chance in a lifetime so I brought everybody.
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