With so many clubs in the West Midlands, it can make it seriously tricky for Junior level graduates to choose their next destination. However, the Sandwell Steelers are proud to announce the recruitment of James Jones-Cross, Joshua Lawrence & George Katoga. All three players are Birmingham Lions Junior graduates, and with this announcement we have also added UOB Alumni and Birmingham Lions Junior coach Paul Zinkus to the programme as well.
Paul has a vast University of Birmingham Lions background, with five years in the multi-title winning University programme. He’s currently the Lions Youth defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator. Having taken the past two years out of contact football to dominate the field in ‘Flag-Football’ he feels he is ready to start laying out punishment on the gridiron.
During the trios’ time in Junior football, they have around forty touchdowns and three interceptions, and having now graduated the Lions Junior programme it was only natural for them to test out different clubs in the area. After a few sessions at other local clubs and after some careful consideration, they have decided to call the Sandwell Steelers home and we are very happy to add these talented youngsters to the #SteelerFamilia.
James will be making his name at running back this season, and has already taken a high number of practise reps after coaches saw his potential to be an exciting and lethal offensive weapon. And keeping within an offensive feeling, Joshua will be plying his trade at wide receiver this season. It’s already been noticed that he has quick feet and great hands to boot, something that coaches and QB Callum Davidson expect in a wide receiver.
This is where we switch to the defensive side of the team and things get very interesting… George will be aiming to become a shutdown-master whilst playing defensive back. The same position Paul will be trying to tie down and during George’s time at the Lions, Paul was his positional coach, and we cannot wait to see the age-old battle of Teacher versus Pupil for those all too precious reps.
Following their transfer from Junior to Senior football, we asked the guys some questions:
SS: Hi James, Joshua and George, first of all welcome to the Sandwell Steelers. How many years have you been playing football previous to joining the Steelers?
JJC: I’ve think it’s been around five / six years now, which includes a Great Britain Junior cap against Denmark in 2015.
JL: Having started a little later than James, I’ve only been playing for three seasons.
GK: I started almost at the same time as James, so I would I guess around five / six years as well.
SS: After initially choosing another club in the area, what made you switch to us?
JL: Well, after a training session with another club, I was actually contacted by Callum (Davidson), and he spoke to me about the Steelers, the coaches and the scheme and after some thought it seemed like a safer or a better move for my development as a wide receiver. The transition between Junior and Senior is tough enough already.
GK: I personally switched for the quality of coaching the Steelers could offer me. Having known Greg because of his Lions ties I knew the quality of coaching he could provide me. The 3G playing surface was a factor as well, this brought tears of joy to my eyes when I heard.
JJC: Well like Joshua, Callum spoke to me and told me of both running backs moving on from last season, and with the scheme being something I am used to this seemed like the best move for me. I also saw a very strong and competent coaching staff, and felt incredibly comfortable being around Ross and Callum.
SS: The difference in physicality between Junior and Senior is vast, as the differing ages between players can be great as well. How do you guys expect to cope with this increased physicality?
JJC: Well, I expect myself getting a few hits that I won’t get up as quickly from as I’d like to. I’m in the gym five times a week, so I am aiming to bridge the gap before game one comes around.
GK: It’s going to take a while to adjust to the level of physicality, especially with playing defence. The first kitted tackle is going to be the worst though. However, as soon as that’s over with it’s only going to get natural. I’m going to stress heavily upon my tackling technique, as that’s the only way to get better.
JL: I’m expecting the game to be harder hitting, which is my main gripe, as even though I am a receiver I love contact. The way I’m intending on dealing with it is very simple. I catch the ball and run 110% and attempt to avoid every tackle on my way to the endzone.
SS: What is it you’re expecting from your season/ time with the Steelers?
GK: I am aiming to become a better player. I already have Coach Zinkus with me, which is going to help my playing development, but being taught by Lions coaches Freeman and Andrews will make me a smarter player as well. As for the team, I aim to do my bit in order for us to achieve a post-season berth.
JL: Plain and simple… I expect to win. Oh and for Callum to throw a fair share of the balls my way.
JJC: Development is my main expectation. I know the Steelers have a well balance offensive nature, but I am also expecting that I can develop quickly so that I can become a huge part of the programme in the years to come. Oh, and winning as well, I’m not comfortable with losing.
SS: Thanks guys, we’re almost there. What NFL teams do you support?
JJC: Bengals.. #WhoDey
JL: The Bengals as well #WhoDey
GK: I’m a San Francisco 49’er, Even after a somewhat disappointing season.
SS: Any final comments?
JJC: I’m really excited about seeing how the season plays out. I’m already learning new things in training and the team has welcomed me more than I could’ve asked for.
GK: Not much to say really, other than I can’t wait to get kitted and start earning some delicious freddo’s from Callum.
JL: Just really looking forward to the season and getting back to playing the sport again, off-seasons suck.
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