Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate spoke with Sky Sports about how important coaching was for him to reach the NFL, and why football is the “ultimate team game”.
As we continue our countdown to the NFL season – which kicks off with the Green Bay Packers facing the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Friday, September 6, live on Sky Sports – we are bringing you interviews with players from the NFL teams that travel to London this season.
After Johnathan Joseph described what it takes to make the NFL, and DJ Chark revealed that striving to make it as a professional athlete is “a sacrifice”, our latest interviewee from the NFL Academy’s Stadium Showcase in July is Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate.
Entering his sixth season, Brate has carved out an impressive career considering he was signed as an undrafted free agent by Tampa Bay in 2014, was released after a year on the practice squad and picked up by the Saints, then re-signed by the Bucs ahead of the 2015 season.
The 28-year-old has racked up over 150 catches, 1,800 yards and had 23 touchdowns since that second pickup by Tampa, including a 57-660-8 line in 2016.
Before last season, he signed a huge six-year, $40.8 million deal with $18m guaranteed after proving himself to be a top-quality player and valuable team-mate. But it didn’t come easily.
In his conversation with Sky Sports, Brate explained how he has managed to make the most of his career, and what he would tell NFL Academy students who are looking to create their own paths to the league…
Sky: How much experience did you have when you entered the league and how important was that for you?
CB: “I grew up playing football.
“It started just in the backyard but I got into organised football right around fourth grade, at probably 10 years old, so I’ve been playing for a while.
“But I was on the freshman ‘B’ football team. I was never a star football player or anything growing up. I just really enjoyed the game.
“I would say that’s one thing that’s important in football is the experience and the only way you can get that experience is through playing games.
“The game is so nuanced – all the different situations, which are super important. I would say situational football is something that’s practised very often but you can really only get it during games.
“So that experience is one thing where I’d say that you can be the best athlete in the world, but experience is crucial for football.”
How important is the coaching aspect?
“Being exposed to good coaching – that’s really where your game takes off.
“You can’t really coach young kids the intricacies and techniques of the game but really my first time getting exposed to something like that was in college, where personally I just really took off as a player because I was excited to try and get better at football.
“Those kids having a chance to work with real football coaches will be huge for them.”
What are the traits you have that the students need in order to make it to the NFL?
“The number one thing is obviously the athletic, god-given ability. The NFL has some of the best athletes in the world so without that, you don’t really stand a chance.
“Also just having coaching and really understanding technique. We have a guy right now in Tampa who is from Canada – Antony Auclair.
“He didn’t necessarily get exposed to that high level of American coaching until he got to the NFL but one thing I was blown away with was the technique work that he was able to get in.
“It was very evident day one that he knew exactly what he was doing so it’s really important to get that coaching to really focus on your technique.
“That’s a big thing in the NFL: technique.”
Finally, what are the life skills you have gleaned from football?
“Obviously one thing is work ethic.
“It’s such a physically and mentally demanding game that without putting in the work, you’re going to have no success. Your teammates are counting on you.
“So you have to be accountable for yourself first and foremost to make sure that you are putting in the work necessary to put yourself in the best situation which will put the team in the best situation.
“I think the big thing for me that football has taught me is just teamwork. It’s the ultimate team game.
“You could have the best player in the world but without 10 other guys helping him out doing their jobs, he’s not going to look like anything special.
“So really just focusing on your job, sacrificing stuff of your own for team success – that is the game of football, pretty much.”
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