For This weeks 10 Questions, we were lucky to catch the ever busy Coach Neil Edwards, known to many as Coach Neo. Defensive Coordinator for the Exiles Adult team, Coach Neo is looking to change the narrative of the BAFA Premier League in the coming season.
How did you get into American Football?
I started playing American Football in the late 80’s at the age of 16, when a Friend I went to school with told me he saw a Team training at Finsbury Park. I lived in North London at the time so we both went and checked it out that weekend. I was instantly hooked. After that first Session, and joined that team, which was called the Finsbury Park Stallions.
Did you play American football/what position did you play?
I started off at LB whilst in the Juniors, as I was a very good tackler. When I turned Senior I moved to Strong Safety, which I excelled at as it enabled me to walk in and out of the Box. When I got an opportunity to Play in Europe I moved to Corner because as an “Import” Player It was now my responsibility to Shutdown the opposing Teams best WR. After I moved back to the UK I changed position again and finished my career at FS, it gave me the Vision to be able to control the Defence and use my experience to make Plays in both the Run and Pass Game.
What position did you dream you could play?
When I first started playing most of my football friends played the Skill positions, and were exceptionally talented. I longed to play at WR or RB, but I didn’t have the skill level as some of those guys. As I’ve gotten older and more experienced I wish I could’ve played at OL. I was very physical as a Defensive player, and if I had the size I would’ve loved to take my mentality and turned it to OL. I Could have been devastating!
Why the Exiles?
I chose to join the Exiles, as I was impressed with its Structure and Management. As I see it, this is essential to the longevity of an Organisation, as well as participating in all facets of American Football; from Flag, to Women’s and at Senior levels. I see the Adult Team as an up and comer, that with the right pieces in place can begin to creep up on the Current front runners.
What is your greatest achievement in this sport so far?
My greatest achievement in Football to date was to represent GB as a player from ‘97 to ‘06. I was really proud to be selected to the NFLE Programme in 2000, alongside a selection of the Best players from all around Europe. Also, it was an honour, as a Coach, to take my former Team, in my 1st year as HC to a Division 1 Final, and to continue on to win Promotion to the Premier Division.
What motivates you to coach football?
When I think back to where Football has taken me and the Man I’ve become because of it, I feel obliged to give back to this new Generation of player. When I see the improvements my players begin to make while I am teaching, it’s a very rewarding feeling. I’ve had my time it’s most definitely about them now.
What are your goals for the Adult team over the next 5 years?
My goal for the Adult Team, as it’s Defensive Coordinator, over the next 5 years, is to firstly establish a high level of Practice that challenges even the most talented of player. I want to create a buzz that will make players want to come to our practices to challenge themselves. I also want to compete for the National Title, and begin to get recognised around Europe as a top level Football Team.
Aside from the Exiles, which team do you support and why?
My current NFL Team is the Jacksonville Jaguars, as I’m hoping that one day they may become the London Jaguar. My all time favourite Team growing up was the Houston Oilers. I was a real fan and didn’t go anywhere as a teenager without being in full Merchandise from head to toe! Unfortunately, the Team no longer exists, but that will always be my first Love.
If you could have one NFL or college player on your team who would it be?
If I could have one NFL player on my Team it would be Alvin Kamara the RB from the New Orleans Saints. Kamara’s Athletic ability is outstanding, and he makes Football look effortless. His performance is a great reminder that what you do off the Field will enable what your able to do on it.
What sets American football apart from other sports and why do you think it is growing so well in the UK?
I think one of the main reasons people are attracted to the Sport and it’s growing so rapidly in the UK, is because the Sport is for all, no exclusions. As a kid I felt Sport wasn’t for me. I was too physical for Soccer, I wasn’t athletic enough for Basketball, and I wasn’t naturally Fast enough to run Track – so I just dismissed it until I came across American Football. There were guys that were Big, Small, Tall, Short, some very Athletic and others that were exceptionally tough, and we all found room for ourselves on the one Team and fitting together perfectly. Together, each of us used our personal Gifts to improve the Team.
American Football gave me what I had been missing in Life, somewhere I could fit in.