In what appears to be a popular series amongst NFL teams, I have had the amazing opportunity of speaking to players from a number of NFL teams including Chiefs, Jaguars, Redskins, Bengals and Jets.
This week I was joined by Kicker for Carolina Panthers, Graham Gano who gave us an insight to his typical day as an NFL player.
Graham Gano: Hey, how is it going?
Liz Fox: Very well thanks. How are you?
Graham Gano: Doing well, doing well.
Liz Fox: Thanks for taking the time out to speak to me today – it’s something our fans here in the UK really appreciate so thank you again for this.
Graham Gano: Liz, you’re welcome, nice to talk to you.
Liz Fox: As a mini introduction, my name is Liz and two years ago I created a blog called NFLGirlUK. The blog covers news and views on all things American football from a fans perspective. It’s basically a passion of mine to help promote and grow the game here in the UK as much as I can.
If you’re ok for time, I have couple of questions I’d like to ask you, that would give fans an insight in to a typical day in the life of a NFL player.
Graham Gano: Yeah that is great.
Liz Fox: Perhaps you could start off by telling us a little yourself?
Graham Gano: Well let’s see, well I am Graham, born in Dundee. I have a wife and two kids, they are probably the most important thing in my life without a doubt and I love playing here in Carolina. This is year eight for me and total in NFL, and I went to school at Florida State.
Liz Fox: Why did you want to become a professional football player? When did you know it was what you wanted to do?
Graham Gano: Well I always want to play for the Scottish National Team in soccer. I grew up as a big soccer fan. Never wanted to play football until I went to high school, they didn’t have a single kicker so one of my buddies asked me to come out and try out for the team, and it was pretty easy since I was the only kid who was kicking the football there.
After I started playing that for a while, I started getting some attention from some colleges and that’s when I realised I could get a free education out of it and possibly have a chance being a pro. So freshman year of high school was when I got very serious about football.
Liz Fox: Talk me through a typical day of a player in the NFL, from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep and everything that happens in between.
Graham Gano: Yeah, so every morning I wake up about 6:10am, and I’ll get ready. I’d go and give my son a hug and a kiss before I leave and then I’ll head out the door, probably around 6:30am. It takes me about half an hour to drive to the stadium, so I’ll make that trip in, and to get into the morning I’ll have a cup of coffee and eat breakfast with my buddies here at the stadium. Then we have a meeting here at 8 o clock here every morning, and usually that meeting I’m there for about an hour or more with the team and then onto our special teams meeting.
After that I usually go to the weight room or we watch a lot of film or we do a little bit of studying on kicking or the other team strategies. Sometimes I have interviews with awesome people from England, and what else, and there is a lot of practice till about 11:15 am that’s usually an hour or 45 minutes before practice. I’ll jump in the hot tub you know start getting my legs ready for practice and then you’re up and head out to practice about an hour and 15 minutes to two hours a day.
I only kick twice a week leading up to the game so my days kicking, on the usual Sunday game will be Wednesday and Thursday, and then, I’ll have the two days off before the game then we play on Sunday.
After practice, sometimes we have a list, for today if for instance we would go and practice two hours and we’d go and have an hour long lift and then, we’d probably have a meeting after that as well. Then we would eat lunch, and then I’ll do a little bit of extra stuff here at the stadium. Then I’ll go home and its non-stop once I get home there is a lot of things I got to do, we are over here so long at the stadium my kids always want to play and they go outside and kick the soccer ball around. I really look forward to going home and seeing my family, that’s always fun. My kids don’t care that I play football, they just care about daddy.
Liz Fox: Wow, so busy! What does a typical game day look like? Do you have any pre-game rituals?
Graham Gano: No I don’t got any pre-game rituals, I do put my families initials like my wife and kids initials on my left knuckles. I write them on there every game as just another reminder of who I’m playing for. But typical game day, I’ll wake up in the morning I’ll do like a short stretch in the morning and I’ll go down for breakfast and we’ll have a meeting right after breakfast , then we head off to the stadium and start getting ready for the game.
When we are playing we normally have a program at the locker you know that has the opposing team information, find out what the festivities are going to be like during the day. So we’ll read that and then. Kind of the same deal try to keep the same routine is like featuring the practice week as far as preparation goes. I hop in the hot tub and stretch and then about an hour and a half before the game that’s when the kickers and snappers head out to the field to get ready. But yeah that’s the most fun part of the week.
Liz Fox: What would you eat in a typical day? Do you stick to a strict diet and have ‘cheat’ days or do you allow yourself to have what you want, when you want? Also, what is your favourite treat?
Graham Gano: I kind of eat whatever I want, but I’m very smart with it I’ll eat healthy foods. They do a great job here with a nutritionist that works hand in hand with the chefs and the coaches to make sure we’re getting the right things we need. Yeah but I say it’s probably a lot of protein, a lot of vegetables at least amount of carbs not too much I’m not trying to be huge or anything. But I would say I eat a well-balanced diet in between breakfast, lunch and dinner I’ll have like a little snack so that my body is pretty fed throughout the day.
I do a lot of events at different schools. Teach the kids the importance of a healthy diet and making sure that you’re eating right so that you can have good energy throughout the day.
Liz Fox: That’s great. What do you like to get up to in your downtime, when you’re not playing or training? What are your favourite hobbies?
Graham Gano: Favourite hobbies, I like to be outdoors. Last night I went out with my kids was kicking the ball around the yard. We like to go looking around for different animals, so we’d go hiking or either go down to river or lake or something, go fishing. Just being outside is really what I enjoy doing most, but I’d probably say going out and hiking around with my family.
Liz Fox: What’s the best part of your job?
Graham Gano: Best part of my job? I think just been able to have fun and do what you love. I know a lot of people who would love to be able to come to work every day with a smile on their face, just really, truly enjoy it. I think that’s the best part about it. I come to work every day and look forward to it; so every morning when I wake up I’m excited to head in and get the day started.
Liz Fox: What’s the worst part of your job?
Graham Gano: The worst part? Probably the time away from my family; there are a lot of demands during the season but I know that comes with the job. Off-season there is so much time that you get but I definitely miss my family. During the season you are very locked-in to getting better, to preparing week by week, so I feel like at this level you have to be, there has to be a sense of urgency and attention to detail when you are playing. So I probably say that the biggest thing is the time away from my family. There are some days where I’ll have to do extra work. I’ll be gone from the house from 6:30am to 7pm at night and maybe get to see my kids for half an hour to an hour. Yeah so that’s probably the hardest part.
Liz Fox: What is the biggest misconception that people have about what it is like to be a NFL player?
Graham Gano: Biggest misconception? I think people tend to think that the NFL players are kind of larger than life, I guess they think they kind of untouchable, I guess some people would think that they are kind of better than everyone else but in reality everybody I feel that on our team is very down to earth. They are easy to relate to they are easy to talk to and basically they have family as well and they are just like anyone else.
It’s just that we play football for a living and I know everybody has a job of their own so I think that it is easy to relate to us and we are just normal people like everyone else.
Liz Fox: … and my final question: The great thing I have noticed when it comes to American sports is that it is largely based around the fans and their experience. How important to you are the fans? If you could give any message to them, what would it be?
Graham Gano: Oh I love our fans for sure, since I’ve been here I’ve noticed a huge change in our fan base – it’s really starting to grow. I think we are in our 23rd season with the team and in the five years I’ve been here it’s really grown tremendously.
The fans have so much fun at our games, you see when Cam scores the touchdown or any other guys score the touchdown on our team they are always going up to a kid giving them the ball.
I think that shows how much we care about our fans, you know our owner always say that the fan is the most important member of our team. I feel like he means it wholeheartedly, I don’t score touchdowns but I do get the opportunity to hand it to the ball at the side line. It’s really need to see the look on their face whenever you do something like that, that’s the moment they will never forget in their whole life and just seeing the joy and the excitement they have on their face and just being able to interact with them.
It’s really special so definitely if there is something I could say to them we truly appreciate them, we wouldn’t be able to play this game, it wouldn’t mean as much to us without them, so yeah they definitely mean a lot to us.
Liz Fox: Well Graham, that’s all of my questions. Thank you so much once again for taking the time out to speak to me today, as I say, it really does mean a lot to the fans. Good luck for Thursday! Have a great day Graham.
Graham Gano: Alright Liz, it was nice talking to you.
I’ve been lucky enough to interview a few players now and without a doubt, Graham has been the nicest guy I have spoken to, all about his family and all about the fans. It was really great to hear.
Thank you so much to Graham for giving us some insight to his day and what it is like to be an NFL player. I appreciate him taking the time out of his schedule to answer our questions, and also a huge thank you to the Preston in the press team at Carolina Panthers for helping to make this happen.