American-style football has proven to be a big surprise to English soccer star David James. James had a chance to try out a new kind of football Tuesday in the United States. Now his nation's number-one keeper, after replacing David Seaman, James worked out with the National Football League's Miami Dolphins in Florida.
The 32-year-old West Ham goalie, who is also a part-time model, accepted an invitation to train with the Dolphins to learn physiological and mental techniques used by NFL athletes to achieve optimum performance.
The NFL continually tries to heighten its global exposure so the league was happy to have James make the brief trip to the USA for a one-day training session.
James says American football has always shown the way forward in terms of conditioning and performance. James had a chance to work out at quarterback, receiver and kicker with several Miami players.
While soccer players are known as being good with their feet, James told VOA Sports he now has more respect for the American football kickers and punters. "One thing I thought I would be good at was kicking, but it was proved that I wasn't as good as I thought," he says. "But it does require a hell of a lot of technique."
James said he also learned the proper technique of throwing an oblong football from Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler. "One thing I've always tried to do with an American football, whenever I've got one, is throw it as far as I can, which looks good but might not be practical in the game," he says. "And Jay was giving me some advice on that stuff, which was good."
James learned about the wide receiver position from James McKnight. "Likewise, I thought it was much more difficult than I initially imagined it to be, the fact that you have to get out of a position to get into a position, i.e. [that is] beating off [avoiding] the defender, keeping your hands in the right position," says James. "It's much more technical than I first imagined. It was a real eye-opener of a day."
Most soccer goalkeepers are taller and bigger than field players, and that's the case with David James. He stands one meter 96 centimeters and weighs 99 kilograms (6'5", 218 pounds), which is among the biggest in Europe. Working out in an American-style football uniform with pads he seemed to fit right in with the Miami Dolphins players.
But James admitted that what NFL players do on the field looks easier than it is. "Decent athletes do things well because it looks easy. You look at Michael Jordan in basketball. The guy was effortless in what he did. But you don't just be effortless, you have to work at being effortless, if you like," he says. "And even then in the process of doing it, is it necessarily effortless or is it, again, hard work that just makes it look effortless? The appreciation I've got in having seen them [NFL players] do what they do and to take back [to England] is immense and a real eye opener."
Goalie David James said he also had something else to take back to England. He was given a Miami Dolphins football helmet after his workout with the NFL club and he said he would be anxious to show it around back home.