Johnathan Joseph on his journey, life lessons and what it takes to make it to the NFL
"First and foremost, you have to love the game," says Texans cornerback Joseph. "You have to enjoy it and play it to have fun."
By James Simpson - @JS_Football
Last Updated: 06/08/19 6:04am
Houston Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph spoke with Sky Sports about his journey to the NFL and has some advice for NFL Academy students about how they can follow him.
The NFL Academy, which was officially launched in May and offers young American football players in the UK a path to US college football and the NFL, took over the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in July to hold its final trials and the participants were coached up by current pros including JuJu Smith-Schuster and Efe Obada.
Behind the NFL Academy's stadium showcase
In the first ever NFL event at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, 150 teenagers took part in the final trials for the NFL Academy.
Also attending the event were representatives from the NFL teams competing in the International Series this season, including Houston's 14-year veteran Joseph. The Texans will play in London for the first time when they face the Jaguars at Wembley on November 3.
Defensive back Joseph was selected in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, and spent five years there before joining Houston in free agency in 2011.
Having played in 186 games (175 starts), the 35-year-old has shown outstanding longevity and ranks fifth on the all-time list of passes defended with 181.
In our conversation with Joseph, he covered his experience of making it to the league, lessons he has learned from the game, and what advice he would give to the Academy students...
Sky: How much experience did you have in football when you were the same age as the NFL Academy kids?
JJ: "I was in high school and when I was 16, I probably already had eight, nine years of experience just playing football.
"I started when I was about seven years old because football is the first thing we do over there as a 'pickup' game. Football or basketball: it's just something that you do as a kid and football is something that stuck with me.
"But for these kids, a lot of the time it's the first time they've been introduced to football. Even Efe Obada [who appeared in just five games for the London Warriors before joining the Dallas Cowboys], I had a conversation with him and he said the first time he played was when he came over [to America]!
"And just think how difficult the transition is. He told me he got cut seven times in his first year over here.
"You can just see how resilient he was and continued to work and it is the same with these kids. It's not always going to get off to the best start but if you continue to work hard at anything, you get better at it, the same way it was with me over time."
How important was coaching and mentorship in your development?
"It was big. Like I tried telling these younger kids, if you get the base foundation of anything and learn the proper techniques and right way to do it, it will give you a lifelong lesson.
"The game of football changes a little bit for but for the most part, the field is going to say the same size, the football is the same size, the rules are going to be the same, it's just about learning the proper techniques and how to play the game."
"When you do that, everything else is simple."
What life lessons have you learned through sports and football?
"Throughout sports, you have a lot of failure.
"So it teaches you how to deal with failure. You have highs and lows so it teaches you how to be even-keeled and not get too high or too low on yourself.
"It teaches you how to work with other people in a team setting all the time and how to be functional. It teaches you how to be accountable, how to be a professional.
"You have to come in and be on time, you have meetings you have to do. You have to go home and study and prepare.
"So it teaches you a lot of things in life that you really don't think about while you're playing the game but at the same time, you're getting life lessons.
"Everything might not go in your favour at times but you have to still come and have that same positive attitude every day and be a team player.
"There's a lot of things that go into it that make you a better person off the field."
What would you tell the kids they need to do to make it to the next level?
"First and foremost, you have to love the game. You have to enjoy it and play it to have fun.
"And it's all about academics. Take care of your academics and get to the next level.
"I think you have to take care of your body. A lot of people take nutrition for granted but now we have so much technology and science so you can read up on it and keep your body to where you’re ahead of the curve.
"You are super lean, you don't have as many injuries, your recovery time is a lot quicker than what it used to be. The more you can educate yourself about it, the better off you will be."
Sky Sports will have more from the NFL Academy as we build-up to the regular season, which begins with the Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears at 1.20am on Friday, September 6.
Follow us on Twitter @SkySportsNFL.