An interview with co-captain and President of the KCL American Football society, KCL Regents. Regents play against UCL this evening, with a 6pm kick-off at University of Greenwich Avery Hill Campus – Southwood Site. Tickets are free.
Apt is a word I have never previously used to describe the â€˜spoons by the Maughan: The Knights Templar. Indeed though it was apt for my sit down with Dom Prince, 3rd year Political Economy student as well as both President of the Regents and co-captain.
A Google search of the Knights Templar reveals they had something of a code. Building up to Kingâ€™s varsity series against the Godless Scum of Gower Street, it seems, yet again, apt as hell: [A Templar Knight] is truly a fearless knight, and secure on every side, for his soul is protected by the armor of faith, just as his body is protected by the armor of steel. He is thus doubly-armed, and need fear neither demons nor men. (Disclaimer: Having played Assassinsâ€™ Creed growing up, I would like in no way to endorse the Knights Templar as an organisation, neither in history nor fiction.)
Any knight, be they in service to the queen or clad in the armour of the NFL, must observe discipline with regards to their health and fitness. Strewn across the table weâ€™re sat at are various vitamins; D, C, B, you name it, Dom had them. Hereâ€™s a man who cares deeply about his body. Nary a pint to be seen, â€œI wouldnâ€™t be forgiven for drinking this close to varsity.â€
The interview took place after the Regentsâ€™ game against UCL on February 25th, in which they eased into a 20-14 victory that saw our boys make it to the playoffs â€“ an unprecedented feat in the history of KCL Regents. On the subject of history, there are likely few guys who know as much of the history of the Regents as Dom himself. The club is enjoying its decennial year â€“ meaning its inception came a decade ago â€“ a landmark far from lost on Dom, who impressed upon his team that this, was a special year.
He was elected president on March 29th last year, following a tragic season, and two weeks before The Great Strand Fire consumed their entire stash of gear. His committeeâ€™s first order of business then, was to rebuild the team from the ashes.
â€œLast year we lost every game, I think we were technically the worst team in the country.â€
Since then the year has proven very special indeed; Kingâ€™s hasnâ€™t seen a team as successful as the team this year, whose record is currently 4-1-1 (wins, draws, losses), the draw (a rare occurrence in American Football) coming in a game wherein an opposing team player seemed badly injured and had to be airlifted for medical attention. The best season they had prior to this, as Dom is able to tell me, was when they went 5-0-3 a few years back, but missed the playoffs because the bus didnâ€™t show up.
Itâ€™s hard to imagine Dom, who I met at the start of the year as I was working the union bar when he came round to double check that their first social was properly arranged. He has a vision for his team; the usual sports society initiation mullarkey; bullying, disrespect and toxic masculinity; old boys cliques; the Regents arenâ€™t about any of that. The committee is comprised of guys who care; even the coaching staff are old boys this season.
â€œThe head coach, Aaron Tanner, has always said to me his proudest achievement was creating this team a decade ago. Seeing brotherhoods forged, boys living together, playing a very intense game for each other, it makes me proud.â€ It was this appreciation for the importance of fraternity that pushed Dom to run for president, and subsequently win by a convincing margin.
The last game of last season and the first game of this one serve as a convenient microcosm of both the improvement the team has seen, and Domâ€™s own season.
â€œThis season started against Chichester. Last season, last game we had 19 players against them which is, scant for a football team, we were talking towards the end of forfeiting the game because there were guys playing offense and defence and just getting banged up. We ended up losing 16-12. The guys that stayed, weathered the injuries for each other and with each other, became blood brothers. We began the game against Chichester this season set up in our new colours but our old formation; then we called a shift and moved out into this whole new thing and proceeded to dominate the game and win.â€
Domâ€™s own season ended in that first game, when in the second quarter, the ball hiked out to him â€“ quarterbacks lead the team in football â€“ he ran over to the boundary to try and earn some inches and got crunched. â€œI heard three snaps in quick succession. All I could think was â€˜Shit, this is it.â€™â€ As aforementioned, Dom takes care of his body. Heâ€™s been smashing rehab since the injury -Â a complete ACL rupture, partial PCL rupture, Lateral Meniscal damage –Â following which the initial prognosis was heâ€™d never play sports again. The team doctor kept the faith, gave him a regiment, and now heâ€™s looking like he may get some minutes on the field at varsity.
Since then the team has drawn one, due to a big hit to an opposing team player leading to a suspected neck injury â€“ thankfully it ended up not beingÂ a serious blow â€“ draws are rare in American football, and if not for the required airlift in the game, Dom fancied their chances of winning that one too. Such a sentiment is difficult to express, a boy mayâ€™ve seriously hurt himself. However it isnâ€™t malice or a disregard for the safety of others, rather a sheer, burgeoning desire to win. Itâ€™s truly infectious; understand that it has pained me to write â€œfootballâ€ so many times in an article that isnâ€™t actually about football. During the course of our chat, however, I became a believer. Iâ€™m invested, emotionally, in this team, and talking to Dom itâ€™s impossible not to be.
So why should you, a regular Kingâ€™s student who has never invested a minute of your time in this sport or society before, come watch the Regents at varsity?
â€œPractically speaking American Football is one of the biggest spectator sports in the world. Itâ€™s suited to high intensity, all the athletic aspects of sport, big hits, speed, power, are on display. Besides those, itâ€™s probably the biggest game of our history given the circumstances.â€
Since my chat with Dom, theyâ€™ve gone on to obliterate practically the best team in the league Queen Mary (7-0-1 record prior to their loss to Regents) in the quarter finals of the play offs, only two days before the varsity clash. Theyâ€™re tired, beaten, weary; but their spirit is unmatchable. Take a chance on history and come support the Regents this evening. If nothing else itâ€™s a chance to see a bunch of our lads clad in literal armour smashing up our loud neighbours from Euston way. According to Dom itâ€™s a game more complicated than chess, and given that heâ€™s able to produce every play of the season on his phone to show me the intricacies of their trickery, itâ€™s hard to refute him.
Nov 12: Regents 12 – 6 Chichester
Nov 19: Regents 20 – 6 City Wolfpack
Nov 26: Regents 6 – 6 Royal Holloway
Dec 3: Regents 0 – 14 Brighton Panthers
Feb 25: Regents 20 – 14 UCL
Mar 11: Regents 40 – 12 QMBL
Mar 13: Regents v. UCL