Nottingham Caesars centre, Sam Fraser, returned to British soil during this past winter, following a Germanic sojourn which saw him experience playing American Football at German third tier outfit, Biberach Beavers.
Fraser, now 24-years-old, has already racked up a number of years playing ‘Americas Game,’ the qualified physiotherapist having initially took up the sport when studying for his degree at Brunel University, and played for their BUCS team.
From there it was a spell in London with the Wembley Stallions, prior to spending 2022 in Germany, a move he doesn’t regret one iota, only coming home because “I needed to come back for work.”
Gaining employment at the NFL Academy, now based in the Midlands, Fraser was soon being targeted by Grant Lawless, the Offense Run Game Coach for the Caesars, neither party having looked back since Fraser committed prior to the current, 2023 season.
“I began playing when I was 18-years-old, at Brunel University, then with the Wembley Stallions,” explained Fraser ahead of this Sunday’s huge, Northern Final, with the Northumberland Vikings.
“I then had a year abroad experiencing the game in Germany, at Biberach.
“They play like five, American college-level players, so the standard there is, I feel, a little higher than it is here – we scored something like 10 TDs in 2½ games – for me though, the biggest difference is in the support as we often had between 800-1000 spectators each game.
“They really know their teams, their players, and the college players, they do make the difference.
“Before that though, and when I graduated from university, as a physio, I went on to spend 18 months in the NHS, at a hospital in Reading, for what was a really rewarding couple of years.
“I was however looking to move on, to experience more, and that’s when I got the opportunity to move to Germany and was able to spend more time focusing on just the football.
“We had a good season (finished 7-3) but we were really hampered by injuries – fractured collarbones, acl’s, re-injured broken shoulder – it really affected us, but for me, it was a fantastic experience and definitely worth it. I’d have never forgiven myself if I hadn’t gone and done it.
“(Unfortunately) I needed to come back to work, and was lucky to gain employment at the NFL Academy, which had moved up to the Midlands from London.
“Grant Lawless (0ffense Run Game Coach at the Caesars) had seen I’d moved here and was constantly in my DMs about my coming to play for Nottingham – it was a choice between here (Nottingham), and Premiership side, Tamworth.
“The people here though, they’re fantastic, and they’re all really excited about playing football.
“It never crossed my mind therefore to go elsewhere; Grant, he knows his stuff, and he was very clear of the goal this season – win the division, the playoffs, and to reach the Premier Division.”
For Fraser, in the working environment in which he finds himself, the days can be long combining both a career in medical sciences, and playing sports at a high level. It’s perhaps akin to that which he went through whilst at university.
He, like many others though, make it work, and the current season alone is testimony to the that fact – unbeaten in 11 games, NFC1 South champions (10-0), and the play-off quarter-final success over the Scunthorpe Alphas (11-0), set up this Sunday’s clash with the Northumberland Vikings, they also boasting an 11-0 record.
“I’m working between say, 08:00 until 18:00, then I’m in the gym as I need to look after the body and be physically able to compete,” explained Fraser.
“We’ve also got review meetings, practices, etc, so yes, you give up a lot of hours in this game – even in a non-game week we’re still putting in a good 10-12 hours plus.
“But, we’ve done what we aimed to do at the start of the year, and just kept going, especially with the changes the league implemented; there’s been benefits to that though, and we have now got players back fit and healthy.”
The regular season for the Caesars would see them register an undefeated, 10-0 winning record in the NFC1 South, and for Fraser, it couldn’t have gone much better for himself, and his fellow defense players.
Although he has had to change position somewhat, to accommodate other players buying into Head Coach Vanden Warner’s cause.
“I’ve actually spent the past three-to-four seasons (prior to this) playing safety, but this season moved back to corner after we signed a couple of decent players,” added the Caesars centre.
“That’s where the coaches saw me playing, both for the Caesars (Simon Hand, Defense Coach, and Mike Holden, Defense Pass Game Coach), and with the GB squad.
“It’s gone pretty well for me though (5 TDs, 3 ints, in eight games) although I’ve never been a one to chase statistics as for me, it’s about the team more than anything.
“Granted though, there’s also been a few things in which to improve upon, and I’ve made mistakes which I know, but it’s nice to be part of a defensive unit that gives little away – sides face us and they try doing things, but can’t.
“This, it’s probably the best defense that I’ve been a part of in my career, we’re never really worried about what the other is doing.”
Now though, it’s all about that one game, the undefeated Northumberland Vikings; all eyes will be on Druid Park, Woolsington, on Sunday afternoon, for the Northern Final, but there’s also another game happening down south at the same time.
The Southern final will see the Norwich Devils and Hertfordshire Cheetahs collide, the winners of both matches meeting in the final later on in September; Fraser though, although excited for Sunday, knows a little about BAFA’s southern teams.
“I know quite a bit about the South side of BAFA having spent time early in my career with the Wembley Stallions, furthered Fraser.
“It’s always been a highly competitive division there, and I still have friends in the area so we’ve kept in touch.
“They’ve got some pretty good teams and, to face either Norwich (Devils) or Hertfordshire (Cheetahs) in the final will make for a really great game.
“We’ll approach this game though (Vikings) as we have any other game, win it, then move onto the next one.
“We’ll do our scouting, watch footage, and see what we can exploit; we’ve played in some big games already this year and we can be prepared as we can be, you can’t be upset if you lose though if you haven’t put in the work.
“This one, against the Vikings, it’s the biggest game of the season on Sunday as that’s the promotion game, then, should we make the final, that’ll cement our season as a whole.”
Nottingham Caesars visit Northumberland Vikings in the Northern Play-Off final, Sunday 3 September, Druid Park, Woolsington; KO14:00, free entry with free parking available at the Callerton Parkway Metro Station (5 minute walk to ground).
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*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @CaesarsFootball Fraser in action for Nottingham Caesars.