Soccer, gridiron, Aussie Rules, rugby league, rugby union – all known as football.
In my life – two are dominant, one as a livelihood and one as a hobby (obsession, even).
Aussie Rules is my profession and I take it very seriously – treating it as anything other is flirting with your future.
American Football is an interest but it is fast becoming a passion and an outlet from AFL that I spend countless hours watching, thinking and reading about.
During my recent trip to the United States, I was lucky enough to gain once-in-a-lifetime access to some of the country’s biggest football programs – both professionally and at the collegiate level.
The Seattle Seahawks opened up their doors to us as did Louisiana State University, the University of Washington, and the University of Southern California.
The differences between the operational systems employed by the American teams and us at the Adelaide Crows were monumental.
Some were obvious – underwater treadmills, plasma screen inside players’ lockers, cafeteria’s the size of a supermarket – the list goes on and on.
Others were subtle – and for a player (hopefully) only approaching the halfway mark in his career, the differences were interesting to say the least. They were food for thought, even.
All four American Football programs implemented similar weekly schedules for their players.
In stark contrast from an AFL week, players were all expected to lift weights the day after a match – something not even considered in the AFL.
Aerobically, the two sports are worlds apart. AFL players run approximately fifteen kilometres per game with stints of up to twenty minutes on-field without a rest on the bench.
In the NFL, teams dress 53 players and the game is stop-start, a play usually lasting less than 10 seconds with 30-45 seconds between each snap.
NFL players don’t get it that easy, however, as the collisions faced by its players far outweigh most hits we see in an AFL match.
A recent statistic released by a university program claimed that an NFL collision is twice as hard on average whilst an AFL player will run four times further.
Veteran Crows like Scott Thompson and the recently retired Ben Rutten can barely get out of bed following a game whilst superstars such as Seahawk Russell Wilson are in lifting weights.
In comparison, an NFL pre-season is brief with strict specifications placed on teams by the NFLPA limiting the amount of team practices and contact sessions.
With the Cricket World Cup looming in Australia, the AFL pre-season we began on November 5th won’t conclude until Easter – almost three times longer than the NFL preparations.
Remarkably, two teams may not face each other for up to three years in the NFL due to the League being broken up into two conferences with divisions within each conference.
The 16-game NFL schedule has paved the way for unbelievably high stakes being placed on each individual game.
AFL fans and the general Australian public would agree that the tens of millions of dollars spent on AFL programs could be considered excessive.
In America, there are 32 NFL teams and another few dozen college squads travelling on chartered planes with Police escorts to and from hotels and playing stadiums.
American Football is an empire, built from hardworking players and staff as well as elite businessmen and women enabling the game to grow into the multi-billion dollar industry you see today.
Securing an NFL contract makes you rich, but it comes with a catch. Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL and you are made to earn every last dollar with all contracts pertaining some amount of guaranteed money, but the team also has the ability to terminate at any time.
Fortunately in the AFL, the contract we sign endures regardless of performance or participation.
Only detrimental conduct to the team or contractual breaches will see you not receive your money.
The NFL and AFL are literally world’s apart but despite their glaring differences, both demand respect.
From an on-field and off-field perspective, both sports are at the forefront of their industries.
The NFL and AFL are played only in their respective countries but both dominate the national landscape.
I am fortunate to have already taken part in four AFL seasons but to get a glimpse for what the NFL and NCAA teams are all about was magical and something I will learn a lot from.