Skipper Heaton gets some training with a twist alongside Super Bowl winner
It was training with a twist for Tom Heaton at the Barnfield Training Centre when the Clarets skipper hooked up with two-time Super Bowl champion Osi Umenyiora.
Goalkeeping coaches Billy Mercer and David Howard may be responsible for the 30-year-old’s development as a player on a domestic and international scale but I doubt that they’ve ever incorporated any NFL training in to their methods.
It was certainly an unorthodox style for an England international but his safe hands were put to the test by the former New York Giant.
The meeting was made possible by manufacturers Precision Goalkeeping following contact with the BBC. And Heaton, who sides with the Dallas Cowboys, was more than happy to bring out his inner Odell Beckham Jr.
“My goalkeeping glove company, Precision Goalkeeping, they had contact with the BBC’s NFL programme and they put it together,” he said. “I was asked if I would be interested in doing it. I enjoy a bit of American Football, I don’t confess to being any kind of expert by any stretch, but I do enjoy it.
“I’ve not played it but I’ve watched quite a bit over the last three or four years. Since the arrival of my son it’s been a little bit less. I like to get an early night rather than watching it in the early morning.
“I do enjoy it and I’ve always looked out for the Dallas Cowboys. For whatever reason they’ve always been a favourite team of mine. I like the tactical element of the game and the physical side of it. The hits are brilliant.”
The Three Lions stopper was put through his paces with an array of routes to execute. Umenyiora, who established himself as a premier pass rusher over a decade ago, supplied the throw while Heaton played the role of the receiver.
The goalkeeper, who has kept two clean sheets this term, claimed that the experience was enlightening while he also took a lot of inspiration from the outside linebacker’s anecdotes.
Umenyiora, who set a Giants franchise record by recording six sacks against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007, was victorious at Super Bowl XLII and XLVI.
“He’s a defensive wideman, trying to get to the quarterback, so he was talking me through some of the wrestling moves and gave me a few little routes to run to go and catch the ball,” said Heaton.
“I did a little bit of kicking with him as well. It was good. I enjoyed listening to his ideas and some of his experiences. He’s obviously a Super Bowl winner and a big player for New York Giants. It was great to listen to him.”
However, the one-time Manchester United trainee accepts that he would be hard pressed to find ways of including those alternative methods of training in to his schedule.
“I always try and be open-minded to these sort of things,” he said. “I always try to think outside the box to see if anything can be added in. I’m sure there is but in terms of what I did on that day there wasn’t really anything there that I could automatically take in.
“One thing I would say is, listening to their training techniques and the time they spend watching other teams’ plays in the classroom as well as on the pitch and in the gym, they certainly put the hours in.
“They use different techniques to what we use so if you delve a little deeper in to their training practices there might be something there of us.”
Heaton added: “Goalkeeping tends to be a little bit more reactive, more static, it’s not a set route. The basic is stopping the ball.
“I know catching is a big part of that for goalkeepers but there are a couple of fundamental differences that maybe overlap. I enjoyed testing my skills and trying to adapt them to their’s but that’s probably as far as it goes.
“He did test me with that. After the first few catches with two hands he told me to do it one-handed which was interesting.
“That’s something different for me. I was trying to follow the ball and trying to get there one-handed Odell Beckham-esque. It was great but it was tough.”