FightForTheYard Has Moved

25 10 2012

We have a brand new website!

http://www.fightfortheyard.com/





Announcement

20 05 2012

As some might have realised, their has been a lack of articles in recent weeks, this is due to matters out of my control.

 

FightForTheYard isn’t going away though, we are currently looking into building a new website and expanding our coverage, therefore increasing our output.

 

We aim to get this done asap and deliver the news and information you want.

 

Stay tuned!

FightForTheYard

 





Good Job – 2012 NFL Draft Analysis

30 04 2012

One of the most exciting and hotly anticipated times of the year on the NFL calendar is over and as usual it has created rigorous debate amongst fans as to who got their man and who has drafted a potential bust.

FightForTheYard takes a look at the teams that improved their chances ahead of the new season;

Arizona Cardinals

Michael Floyd, WR

Arizona produced one of the shocks of the first round with the addition of wide receiver Michael Floyd. The significance of this pick is huge as it means defences across the league will have to focus on two quality wide outs instead of all the planning going into, ‘how to stop Larry Fitzgerald’.

The addition of THREE tackles, Bobbie Massie from Mississippi being the stand out one, means the Cardinals have addressed a big need in a big way. Quarterback Ryan Lindley was taken in the 6th round and will apply some pressure to the faltering Kevin Kolb.

Staffordshire Surge lineman Tom Donlan, 22, is pleased with the weekend’s outcome.

“Michael Floyd is the one I wanted an we went out and got him. I believe Massie will be a steal in the fourth round and it’s good to see some competition at the quarterback position”.

FightForTheYard Draft Grade : B-

San Francisco 49ers

LaMichael James, RB

San Fran entered the draft with a team already capable of launching an assault on the division title and quite possibly the Super Bowl. With their first selection they acquired wide receiver A.J. Jenkins from Illinois. Jenkins was a surprise selection considering Randle and Hill remained on the board and the fact that the 49ers had already strengthened this position in the offseason with Randy Moss and Mario Manningham joining the team.

A selection I loved was the capture of Oregon running back LaMichael James in the second round. Not much was said about this kid going into the draft process, even though he had a massive year in college. The signing of James now means the 49ers can call upon either Gore, Bradshaw or LaMichael to improve that offense that struggled a little bit in 2011/12.

As for the remaining selections, the 49ers addressed some needs in the secondary and picked up defensive end Cam Johnson in the 7th round, which will have delighted defensive co-ordinator Vic Fangio.

FightForTheYard Draft Grade : B+

St Louis Rams

Janoris Jenkins, CB

At the end of the first round I was left wondering how the Rams had traded out of the second overall position all the way back to No. 14? I wasn’t the only one, Super Bowl MVP and former Rams quarterback Kurt Warner displayed his frustration on Twitter, (I mention this because I got a reply from him, no big deal.)

With the first round pick the Rams took defensive tackle Michael Brockers out of LSU. The second round was where things got interesting. With the first of three picks the Rams gave Sam Bradford a weapon, aptly name receiver Brian Quick. With the second selection they grabbed troubled cornerback Janoris Jenkins.

We all know that Jenkins could do with a bit of counselling but their is no doubt when it comes to his footballing skills that he is a top talent. Following Jenkins was Iasaiah Pead, a future replacement for aging running back Steven Jackson?

Trumane Johnson was another good bit of business by new head coach Jeff Fisher as the Rams recovered from a shaky start, where they had hoped to draft Justin Blackmon before the Jaguars traded up to get him.

FightForTheYard Draft Grade : A-

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mark Barron, SS

Tampa had a disasterous season last year but made some good signings during free agency and have continued to take strides in the right direction with this year’s draft.

Trading back two places in the 1st round did not hurt them as they secured the top safety, Mark Barron with their first pick. Towards the end of the round the Bucs managed trade back in to secure the second best running back in the draft, Doug Martin. Great business.

Outside linebacker Lavonte David followed in the 2nd round with a potential game changer in Najee Goode helping to improve the Tampa defence.

Brilliant weekend for the Buccaneers

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FightForTheYard Draft Grade : A*

New England Patriots

Dont’a Hightower, ILB

The Patriots decided to trade down and collect extra picks for the later rounds… is what I was going to say but amazingly completely the opposite occurred.

New England traded up to get pass rusher Chandler Jones with their first pick and then aggravated the Ravens by pinching Dont’a Hightower from underneath their noses.

Defence was a problem at Foxborough last year even though they did make it all the way to the Super Bowl, but still, the first two picks in this draft will improve them considerably.

Alfonso Denard was chosen in the final round, a first round talent with off the field issues, should Belichick sort him out, the Patriots have a quality cornerback on the roster.

New England fan Alex Morse likes what they have been able to do; “I’m just happy we got the guy with the best name in the draft.

FightForTheYard Draft Grade : B+

Pittsburgh Steelers


Alameda Ta’amu, NT

The Steelers have had nothing short of a remarkable draft. Two future Pro Bowl linemen in guard David DeCastro and tackle Mike Adams will help keep big Ben on his feet, where he belongs.

Sean Spence’s tape speaks for itself at linebacker and a big presence on the inside with Alameda Ta’amu adds another piece to the puzzle of this great defence.

Running back Chris Rainey has been spoken in the same breath of La Micheal James and Lamar Miller and if he can produce the numbers I believe the other two can, then Pittsburgh will be rockin’ and rollin’.

Steelers fan Julian Myles, 22, believes the team is stronger than ever; “Potentially we have two sensational linemen to protect the quarterback and a nose tackle that can learn from veteran Casey Hampton.

“All in all we have filled our gaps and I cannot wait for the season to be underway in September”.

FightForTheYard Draft Grade : A

Cincinnati Bengals

Mohammed Sanu, WR

The Bengals did all they could to cement themselves as a playoff team for years to come with some shrewd investments in this year’s draft.

The selection of Dre Kirkpatrick improves what is already a good defence operating without the big named players of divisional rivals, Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

Defensive tackles Devon Still and Brandon Thompson are solid signings that will stop the run and leave Kirkpatrick to dominate the passing game.

Mohammed Sanu was the victim of a hoax phone call claiming Cincinnati required his services but ironically a day later, the Bengals did come calling and he could be the man to take some of the pressure off current receiver A.J. Green.

I really like what the Bengals did this year.

.

FightForTheYard Draft Grade : A*





Bad Job – 2012 NFL Draft Analysis

29 04 2012

One of the most exciting and hotly anticipated times of the year on the NFL calendar is over and as usual it has created rigorous debate amongst fans as to who got their man and who has drafted a potential bust.

FightForTheYard takes a look at how these teams did little to improve their chances ahead of the new season;

Seattle Seahawks

Bruce Irvin, DE

Seattle began with the reach of the first round, (If you don’t count the Miami – Tannehill deal), in selecting a red flag guy in Bruce Irvin. Described as the most natural pass rushers in the draft, few had him going in the first round and most definitely did not have him going to Seattle at No. 15. Head coach Pete Carroll has took a gamble, one I hope he is not remembered for if it all goes wrong.

A solid selection of Bobby Wagner at inside linebacker followed and then came another random pick, Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson. As most will know Seattle signed Aaron Rodgers back up Matt Flynn during free agency, so why have they taken a rookie in the 3rd round?

Wilson is a quality player but the Seahawks had glaring needs at receiver and their pass rushing leaves something to be desired.

Seattle fan and Staffordshire Stallion Michael Gill believes that Irvin will need to impress to get the fans onside; “The pick of Irvin is a risky one, I just hope he is as good as they say he is. I am pleased with the captures of Wagner and running back Robert Turbin, they are solid signings”.

FightForTheYard Draft Grade : C-

Green Bay Packers

Nick Perry, DE

The Packers have a quality player in almost every position… apart from running back. This area needed strengthening and they had plenty of options available to them but for some reason they decided against drafting a game changer in the backfield.

Another position of need to them was on defence, take away Clay Matthews and you don’t have a pass rush. While this was addressed, did they select the right players? In my opinion, no.

Nick Perry is inconsistent and can go missing while Jerel Worthy isn’t going to get you ten sacks a season.

One fan however believes they have done a good enough job, Nathan Sinclair of the Oxford Saints says; “Overall I am pleased because we took Jerron McMillian who should replace Nick Collins and hopefully B.J. Coleman can learn behind Rodgers”.

FightForTheYard Draft Grade : C-

Denver Broncos

Brock Osweiler, QB

Denver signed Peyton Manning during free agency if you did not already know so trading out of the 1st round completely could have had something to do with trying to afford the great man’s wages. Who knows?

When they did finally select a player they chose Derek Wolfe, who I here you say? Exactly.

One selection which I do agree with is that of 6’7″ quarterback Brock Osweiler who will study Peyton Manning for the next three years and then hope to become the tallest starter at Mile High in Broncos’ history.

FightForTheYard Draft Grade : D

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Washington Redskins

I am just as surprised to be writing about the Redskins in this article as you are reading about them, after all they did draft a future star quarterback in Robert Grifin III, but what else did they do?

Robert Griffin III, QB

Not a great deal. A few offensive lineman who don’t have the greatest of reviews followed before the confusing selection of another rookie quarterback in Kirk Cousins.

Washington has cut it’s other quarterbacks leaving them bare but why draft another rookie? How is he going to help when Griffin gets hurt? He is hardly a carbon copy of RG3. Most of all I feel sorry for Cousins as he is a good quarterback who is now going to have to sit behind a franchise player until his contract comes to a halt in four years time.

FightForTheYard Draft Grade : C

Oakland Raiders

Christo Bilukidi, OL

The Raiders sacrificed some of their picks for current quarterback Carlson Palmer and the jury is still out on that one. Once they did finally get going it was too late to pick up any ground breaking talent although that is not how Raiders fanatic Alex Seddon sees things.

“I came into the draft not expecting a huge amount, and left pleasantly surprised at what the new regime managed to achieve. Bergstrom is a big mauling tackle who’ll kick inside to left guard and sit in the trenches next to Wisniewski and Brisiel. The majority of the picks were on defence, with only big possession receiver Juron Criner coming into the offensive side of things.

The front seven were beefed up and I like the potential in the defensive linemen who both went ignored for different reasons. Crawford is a big physical English lad who needs to learn the game more, whereas Bilukidi is the first player ever drafted from Georgia State, and even NFL Network didn’t have footage! Overall, it’s a good start and things are looking up for the Silver and Black”.

FightForTheYard Draft Grade : C+





Mike Carlson Exclusive

26 04 2012

If Mike Carlson was in this year’s NFL Draft, he would have a battle on his hands to even be selected, never mind worrying about where he would land.

This is by no means an attack on an internationally coveted football broadcaster and journalist, but merely the thoughts of the great man himself.

Mike Carlson

“Hahaha I don’t think there would be much call for a 195 pound tightend who can’t run fast or block well”, in reference to his playing days at Wesleyan College.

These days you’ll see Mike Carlson hosting Channel 4’s ‘Sunday Night Football’ show, similar to his role on Channel Five’s coverage of the sport.

“The Channel 4 job followed on from my previous role at Channel 5, it’s the same production company that makes the shows and they hired me when they first started NFL.

It was good for me because Sky had just let me go, without telling me, but the Sunday/Monday games went to Five and I moved from the host to the analyst role, which made more sense”

Mike has earned himself a cult following after using some peculiar phrases during his analyses. Lines such as; ‘The Bush you can support’ in reference to Reggie Bush and former President George W. Bush and the New Jersey Giants (New York Giants’ home stadium is in nearby New Jersey, not New York) have gone down well with the viewers when commentating on football.

“It all started from doing those minute and a bit highlights of Sunday’s games for our Monday night shows on Channel 5. I needed to do something other than just recite who was scoring or what, so I started improvising and thankfully the producers loved and encouraged it.

When asked what he enjoys most about presenting live on television; “It’s the challenge of saying something meaningful and entertaining ad-lib, with a producer talking in your ear, and the host looking at you like you’re crazy”.

We know that Mike is on the television now but where did it all begin for him, who ignited his passion for football? Predictably, it was his father, like so many before and after him, a father’s influence is greater than a small boy’s desire.

“I grew up with football, my dad played that and ice hockey in high school. He played against Levi Jackson in the Hillhouse versus West Haven thanksgiving game in front of 25,000 fans in the Yale Bowl.

He also played a year at University of Connecticut, where he came up against NFL Hall of Fame Andy Robustelli at Arnold College, (that was his claim to fame). He took me to the Yale versus Connecticut game when I was five, my grandad used to work there, and we saw almost every Yale home game from the time I was six until I started playing in high school”.

Mike Carlson

If anybody ‘follows’ Mike Carlson on social networking site Twitter, they will know that he is quite opinionated and seems undeterred by outside influences, something he displayed when turning down a scholarship at the renowned University of Pennsylvania.

“I went to Wesleyan University, a division three college that has since produced Bill Belichick and Eric Mangini, whilst turning down a scholarship from the University of Pennsylvania, mostly because I wanted to play lacrosse again and Penn wanted me to lift weights and get up to 225 pounds and play defensive end or linebacker. I wound up playing defensive end in a 4-4 defence and a split end on offense, (which was my dream) on Wesleyan’s freshman team which had 18 guys on it. I played tight end on the varsity for three years, the first of which we went unbeaten and won the Lambert Cup”.

After realising he wasn’t going to make it as a professional player, Mike took up a career in journalism.

“I was always writing, I did some on the papers in high school and college and a few freelance things while I lived in Montreal, getting an masters at McGill University, (I turned down the chance to try out for the Redmen, but played a lot of very competitive basketball in the gym with their team).

When I came to London I tried to get a journalism job and the editor of UPI liked me, but couldn’t give me a job thankfully he recommended me to UPITN, a television news agency they ran with ITN. The rest was history…I became their sports editor, went to ABC Sports, and then to Major League Baseball Intl”.

As any journalist will know, the small interviews are fine and pleasant but we are all in the business to capture that exclusive or big name. Mike is no exception and he has interviewed NFL royalty.

“In the NFL my best interview was with Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys owner), who didn’t like that I contradicted him and then there was Al Davis (former Oakland Raiders owner), who appreciated that I didn’t contradict him.

In the NFL Europe days, I loved the way coaches and players were so approachable and open. Jack Bicknell, Jim Criner and Ray Wollsey taught me so much about the game, I really miss those days. I loved the feeling when we set up to interview Aaron Stecker in New Orleans and he came in and looked at me and said, ‘you still doing this shit?’ and I replied, ‘you too? mines a lot easier”.

Moving on to football in the United Kingdom, Mike is of the view that football participation will only remain amongst the diehards.

“I believe football over here is reasonably big as an attraction; we’ve got a great product both live and on television, but as a participant sport it’s always going to be a long shot, partly because of entrenched sports as competition but more because the sport is so time, money, and technology intensive…you can’t just give them a ball and play in the street and then play virtually the same game as the pros”.

He is however more upbeat about the NFL International Series which will return in October of this year.

“I love it, and I think it’s a forward-looking idea. You wouldn’t see the English Premier League do something like that. It has its limits but I’d like to see one neutral site game for each team, every year, played overseas”.

Mike Carlson

Mike was brave enough to give FightForTheYard some predictions ahead of the 2012 NFL Draft and upcoming season;

Q) Moving on to the upcoming NFL Draft, who do you think will make the biggest reach?

You mean like the Atlanta and Julio Jones scenario? We’ve already seen the winners in that contest: Washington!

Q) Who do you like the look of more, Luck or RG3?

“I liked Luck in 2010, when I did Notre Dame versus Stanford, as much as any quarterback I’ve seen in years as an NFL prospect. What’s interesting to me is that he would have been a perfect fit for the Manning system at Indy, but who knows what their new attack will be like. RG3, I’ve seen only in the bowl game, but he’s got talent, and seems like a great fit for Shanahan, though his track record with developing quarterbacks isn’t that great”.

Q) If you were the St Louis Rams GM, what would you have done with the 2nd overall pick in the draft?

“Exactly what they did, I’d love to see them land Kalil, but they won’t, and I would serious consider trading down again if they got a good offer for the 6th pick”.

Q) Give me an early prediction for the next Superbowl, who do you fancy?

Who knows? Before the draft? Hmm, Randy Moss doesn’t make the 49ers favourites although I still think San Francisco and Baltimore were the best teams last season, in the sense of balance, with the Giants right behind them, but then again the Giants had a big play quarterback”.

And finally,
Q) What is next for Mike Carlson?

I’ve written a few books and I have been trying for a while to do an American football book. I would really love a radio show, a music one, a talk show, or a combo; I’d call it, ‘Old & in the Way’, just like me”.

FightForTheYard would like to thank Mike for his time and commitment to this interview.





Staffordshire Surge Season Preview

12 04 2012

The Staffordshire Surge have created an unwanted image of being a ‘pub team’ in recent years, but all that is about to change as an influx of coaches and fresh ideas aim to rejuvenate this stuttering programme.

The Surge will compete in the BAFANL Central Division Two in 2012 and expectation is high, something which has been absent in recent times. The season opener against the newly reformed Crewe Railroaders will be a test to see how far the team has come in the offseason in what is anticipated to be a highly charged local derby.

Stuart Beech, 41, is the defensive co-ordinator for the Surge and in his own words; “I’m the DC and only a back-up because I’m too old and decrepit to play nowadays”.

DC Stuart Beech courtesy of Sophie Robinson Sports Photography.

His playing days may now be behind him but he is still hopeful of a successful campaign for the Surge.

“This year our aim to create a solid foundation to build on for the coming years. Too many years now the Surge has been thought of as a ‘pub team’ and behind the times of how a club should be run. We have now sorted out a stable home ground, a functioning committee, proper kit and installed a whole new offence and defence. If we can show an improvement on last season, (on and off the pitch), we will be very happy”.

The Surge have added offensive co-ordinator Gideon Beddows, quarterback/receiver coach Warren Thomas, running back/ special teams co-ordinator Stephen Hindmarsh and linebacker coach Pete Machin to the set-up in the hope this will improve results on the field but also have an impact off the field.

OC Gideon Beddows - courtesy of Sophie Robinson Sports Photography

“Coach Beddows and Thomas have brought with them a more professional approach to the running of the team and the way we are viewed by others and have installed a new offence. Coach Hindmarsh has been with the Surge for many years but now has increased responsibility while coach Machin is a motivational and technically gifted ex-player who we are glad to have back”.

Vital to any team’s chances of success is competition for places as sometimes a small squad of settled players can result in an unhealthy, stale environment but luckily for the Surge that won’t be the case this season.

“Player recruitment has gone well over the past couple of years, half the team has only been playing for three seasons or less and we’ve managed to pick up some really good players along the way. This year we have got four rookies who have shown some great promise and will have a good chance of starting in the first game against Crewe Railroaders.

We have lost players from last season, but I think most teams will have to cope with this problem. The upturn this year is that we have had only one player leave us this year to join another club and we also expect a number of players from the Staffordshire Stallions to come down and do a job for us this year”.

Courtesy Sophie Robinson Sports Photography

Last season did not go to plan for Staffordshire as they only managed to secure two wins in a season they would probably rather forget.

“Last year started out quite well despite some close losses to the Chester Romans and Lancashire Wolverines before dropping off after the visit of the Sheffield Predators. That game, coupled with the losses tot Chester and Shropshire Revolution were our real low points of the season as we didn’t play well nor show any real fight. Thankfully we did show some spirit in the away game at the Revolution and at home to the Lincolnshire Bombers”.

Returning to the current season’s fortunes, coach Beech has highlighted the Surge’s main players ahead of the new campaign with receiver Lewis Bayley, defensive end Phil Wright and linebacker Mike Cooke receiving plenty of praise.

“Stallions go-to-man Lewis Bayley has good size, speed and hands. He was the offensive player of the year last season and I don’t see no reason why that would change with the new offence we are running this season. Wright is raw talent that ran riot last year in his rookie season and he is showing even more promise this season. Cooke had to miss half the last season but still impressed in the games he did play in, he is a tackling machine and has a cracking technique”.

When asked who he was least looking forward to playing this season, coach Beech held nothing back; “Sheffield because I despise the ‘double-wing’, it’s a horrible offence to play against and watch”.

Staffordshire Surge VS Crewe Railroaders – 22/4/2012

Longton Rugby Club, Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 8GR

Kick Off 14:30PM





Russell Hewitt Interview

12 03 2012

The tingling sensation upon the final whistle, a distant memory. The deafness, from victory songs on the coach journey home, erased. The excessive flash from a proud father’s camera, gone.

It was the Plate competition for the Destroyers this year, something that didn’t sit well with Head Coach Russell Hewitt.

“For us, we haven’t been executing in a way we have become accustomed to. You sit and watch the film, see you out gained your opponent, held the ball for longer and even had more plays, but the only stat that counts at the end, is the final score”.

Portsmouth Destroyers 2010/11 National Championship trophy presentation.

Almost twelve months ago, coach Hewitt and his Portsmouth Destroyers were walking up the steps to collect their BUAFL Championship trophy. They had just completed a momentous victory over the resounding favourites, Birmingham Lions.

They should have built on this foundation, but ultimately the pressure of holding on to their crown for a second successive season proved too much.

FightForTheYard delves a little deeper into the current problems facing the Destroyers and gets to grips with the man at the helm of this faltering programme.

Russell first came into contact with American football when he was just 14-years-old;

“I was a young lad and a local team called Solent Blitz started training on the school field, I’ve been hooked for 25 years.”

Beginning as a defensive back, Russell played the sport from 1994 – 2003.

“I’ve played for too many years, I started out as a defensive back before moving to linebacker and defensive end, as I got older and slower.

Over the years I have also played quarterback, tight end, running back and receiver, in fact the only place I haven’t played is offensive line!”

Something which attracted Russell to the sport is the notion that whichever body type you are, you can compete for a place on the roster.

“I love the competition that football throws up and that anybody can play it. Then you add the life lessons it teaches you, the sport cannot be beat.

Knowing his playing career was coming to an end, Russell jumped at the chance to get involved in the coaching side of the game.

Hewitt coaching the Southern Sundevils

“Graham Thorpe got me started coaching Youth and University football, whilst I was still playing. He got me helping out with the Sundevils Youth team, and a GB Lions Youth camps. I was then the defensive backs coach for the Southampton Stags in 2002-03.

Jim Robertson appointed me as a defensive coordinator in 2003 when I retired from playing. I really have to thank them both, as they ignited a passion for coaching, something I didn’t think I had. Getting into coaching has been a great thing for me, to pass on knowledge and see an individual improve is extremely rewarding but it can also be testing and very hard work”.

In 2004 the University of Portsmouth was looking for a head coach to start a football programme, something Russell was hesitant about doing.

“I was invited to be the head coach and start a team with about twelve students. To be honest I had no idea what to do and neither did they but we started recruiting and then learnt how to recruit properly…”.

After taking charge of the team, Hewitt and his coaching staff set about establishing some targets, some of which were extremely brave and in hindsight maybe too brash.

“We travelled to Oxford Brooks for our associate team with only 17 players and two coaches, we lost 14-2 but it was a great experience.

Since then it’s been about improving and every single year, we took steps. We originally set a three-year plan to get to playoffs, but we fell just short of that so I sat down with some of our coaches and captains to make sure that would never happen again”.

Luckily for coach Hewitt the talk did the trick and they began the hard work of challenging the best programmes in the country; “Everyone bought in, we took on the University colours, rebranded and the new Destroyers were born”.

Russell Hewitt and Portsmouth Destroyers

Winning the Championship last season would be enough for some people but their will be no complacency on the part of coach Hewitt.

“Have we achieved what I want? No. It was amazing to lift the Neil Reynolds Trophy last season but the work is in the grind to get better. What makes the BUAFL so great is the time you get with players, generally players only get 24 games, just three short seasons, to reach their football potential, so you have to get the best out of them for your programme”.

Russell points to the achievements of John Wooden (UCLA Basketball coach) and Bob Ladouceur (De La Salle High School) who won 10 National Championships in 11 seasons and a twelve-year winning streak respectively as an example of pushing the boundaries of perfection.

“I really don’t believe you can ever be satisfied with where you are or you drop back down and nobody can be perfect all the time, but when a coaching legend like John Wooden or Bob Ladouceur can do what they’ve done, you know you must work harder”.

The current season has not been plain sailing for the Destroyers especially after the heroics by last year’s team.

“This season has been a new challenge and thus been another learning curve. Last year was great and something I will look back on in future years, my first National Championship as a Head Coach, but that ended as soon as we lifted the trophy.

The confidence that win gave us was amazing and we took that into this season. Ultimately it has brought out the best in our opponents, and they’re all looking for a shot at the National Champions”.

Russell is pleased with the development of some of his players but is disappointed with recent performances.

“We have built on last years team, adding a huge rookie class and in some cases these rookies have beaten out veteran players which is excellent to see because this really allows us to plan for next year and beyond. Yet we have to be honest with ourselves, we didn’t return out of the Christmas break as we should have and that cost us our 15 game win streak”.

Unfortunately the Destroyers succumbed to the Bath Killer Bees in the first round of the Plate competition, leaving them trophyless for 2011/12 and thinking what could have been if they could keep the team fit.

Had the Destroyers missed out on the playoffs completely, they would have come under much scrutiny from rival teams and coach Hewitt was keen to avoid a backlash.

“First of all, some people don’t like us but we don’t care and that’s why we’re viewed the way we are. Last season we publically stated ‘The Outcome Is Already Determined’, it’s a Ray Lewis quote and it means ‘We don’t care who you are, if we bring our best, we’ll beat you’. I can understand why people got upset but we had taken beatings from Southampton and Hertfordshire time and time again but now we could stand up and look them in the eye. We backed up what we said and took care of business.

When it comes to this season, if we had missed the playoffs, everyone would’ve laughed at us, the ‘unofficial forum’ would self implode, (Hooray!). We have a great league and a lot of people work hard to keep it that way. I’m proud to coach in a league where one single loss may mean you miss out on the playoffs, (especially in the MAC), two losses and you might as well load the gun yourself”.

Away from the Portsmouth Destroyers, Russell is an avid follower of the Miami Dolphins but his primary football passion is College Football; “The excitement that surrounds an NCAA game with 70,000 – 90,000 fans attending week-in-week-out, is special”.

Russell Hewitt

Last year Russell and his friends travelled across Southern America whilst watching Mississippi State v LSU, a High School game in Gainesville, Tennessee vs Florida, before finishing with the Atlanta Falcons vs Philadelphia Eagles.

In the previous year, Russell embarked on a one man mission driving 1,300 miles across the states, taking in more games and managing to catch a quick chat with former Dallas Cowboys and Hall Of Fame receiver Michael Irvin at a Miami Hurricanes training session.

This year he plans to head over to Dublin for the Notre Dame v Navy encounter, then fly to either Texas or Michigan depending on television schedules.

Russell has had the honour of meeting current NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on more than one occasion due to his involvement with the International Series.

Russ Hewitt with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (left)

“I’ve been lucky enough to attend all the games so far as I provide all the stats that go live on NFL.com. It’s quite a pressured environment as we are the only non-American crew. The NFL audits all the games to ensure the stats are 100% correct, which we have managed to do for three straight years.

The first time I met Mr Goodell it was just a quick polite chat, but he is an amazing ‘people person’. We see him just once a year, but he’ll remember who you are, and even joke about us ‘getting it right’ in regards to the stats”.

While this season has come to an abrupt end for Hewitt and his beloved Destroyers, you can guarantee they will be back next year, determined to prove their critics wrong.

FightForTheYard would like to thank Russell Hewitt for his time and commitment to this feature.

All photos courtesy of Russell Hewitt.