As he prepares for his seventh season in the NFL, Uche Nwaneri has become a key starter on the Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive line. The veteran guard visited London this week to promote Jacksonville's October 27 clash with the San Francisco 49ers at Wembley Stadium and we caught up with him.
How do you feel to be playing a regular season game in London?
It's exciting. Going to the UK to play football in front of those passionate British NFL fans is really something I am looking forward to. It will be a really great experience.
Can you remember your first NFL game?
The first game I played in during the regular season was on special teams. I was a rookie trying to find a place on the team. The crazy thing to me was how fast the game moved. In college you feel like you're on top of your game and you're 'the guy' at your school and then you get to the NFL and it's a whole other speed. It was really jarring but you get used to it after a while and you learn so much more about the game when you become a starter.
What advice would you give to rookies preparing to enter their first NFL training camp next week?
Bring a big notebook, take a lot of notes and soak up all the information from the players around you who have been playing for years. That was one of the things that really helped me – when I came in I had a lot of other offensive linemen who gave me a lot of help and advice on my technique, how to execute blocks and the best way to take on defenders. Any rookie coming in has to really lean on the veterans and ask them to help you learn the game.
Who were your NFL heroes when you were growing up?
Steve Young was one of my favourite players of all time. I was a 49ers fan when I was growing up and I really liked his style of play. I also liked Jerry Rice and when they won the Super Bowl in the 1994 season that was like my peak of being an NFL fan. There are a number of players I have looked up to and been awe-struck by – Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, who I actually played against in the preseason of my rookie year. I had to take time out to get a picture with Derrick after the game. He was somebody I watched in Middle School and High School and was an all-time great. And I was really influenced by Drew Brees, who played at my college, Purdue.
Do you have a pre-game routine?
I like to have a nice cup of tea in the morning. My parents are from Nigeria so their etiquette was very British so that's where the cup of tea comes from. I get stretched out by the trainers when I get to the stadium and then I go and sit in the hot tub to get my body nice and warm. I go through my plays and look at some last-minute things while getting into the mental mind-set of being aggressive and alert throughout the game. Then it's go time!