Racing has helped Oram-Jones on the soccer field as he prepares for the CFL Global draft

TORONTO — Samuel Oram-Jones doesn’t regret trading in his racing helmet for a football helmet, but he wonders daily how different his life would be if he had stayed behind the wheel.

TORONTO — Samuel Oram-Jones doesn’t regret trading in his racing helmet for a football helmet, but he wonders daily how different his life would be if he had stayed behind the wheel.

The 5-foot-8, 195-pound running back is among the global players participating in the CFL national combine this weekend. But from the age of eight to 18, the native of Milton Keynes, England, was heavily involved in kart racing, serving as a teammate and/or competitor against Max Verstappen, George Russell, Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris, all current Formula One drivers.

Indeed, Verstappen captured the 2021 F1 drivers’ title for Red Bull Racing, while Leclerc won the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 20 for Mercedes. Oram-Jones was part of McLaren’s young driver programme, worked on a simulator with Red Bull and even got racing advice from seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton after twice winning the Lewis Hamilton True Grit award.

“Absolutely, I think about what could have been every day,” the eloquent and well-spoken Oram-Jones said. “I think most of the grids in Formula One are made up of guys that I raced against or was teammates with.

“When I was a teammate of Leclerc, for example, they sent him and me to the track to race one against one and I remember that he won by a couple of tenths. Now I look at him and say: ‘You'”. You are the number 1 driver for Ferrari, you just won the Bahrain Grand Prix and I was there. I’m sure thinking, ‘What if’, but at this point it’s spilled milk under the bridge. I am certainly doing everything I can to make football my lifelong dream and goal now and I hope I can do a good job of it. this weekend.”

Oram-Jones left racing (he had been offered a ride in F3) to attend Durham University in England for a business and management degree.

“I don’t regret it at all,” he said. “I do my best at whatever I’m doing and if it works, it works.

“If not, I just put the other foot forward and see where it takes me.”

Durham University unexpectedly led Oram-Jones to pursue football.

“I took the game even though I had no plan,” he said. “I was lucky that the scholarship runners at Durham took me under their wing.”

Oram-Jones helped Durham University win the 2018 Universities and Colleges Sport national title. After earning her degree, Oram-Jones then headed to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee to work on her master’s degree while he also served as a backup runner.

Then, in the fall of 2020, Oram-Jones attended USC as a graduate transfer. He did not see any action in 2021 as a senior, but was named the Trojans’ co-offensive service team player of the year.

And now he hopes to have the opportunity to play professionally in Canada. The 2022 CFL Global Draft is scheduled for May 3.

“It’s been an interesting (ride),” Oram-Jones said. “I certainly try to paint it as positively as possible (but) there have definitely been a lot of difficult moments in my football journey.

“But I’ve been lucky that when I’ve coached in the off-season, professionals like LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore have taken me under their wing. Hopefully one of the Canadian teams picks me up and a coach will do the job.” the same. I can assure whoever it is that I will be the best studio they have ever had.”

Oram-Jones logged a 29-inch, 18-rep vertical jump on the 225-pound bench press on Saturday. German wide receiver Robin Wilzeck had the top vertical (38 inches) among global players, while Noke Tago, a defensive lineman from Samoa who attended Oregon State, had the best 30-rep combination on the bench.

But Oram-Jones was looking forward to the one-on-one exercises on Sunday.

“That’s what I want most,” he said. “I can not wait”.

Also on Sunday’s program will be the 40-yard dash, the combine’s main individual event.

Receivers Gavin Cobb of Manitoba and Riley Boersma of Regina had the best vertical position (40.5 inches each), while Bryant University running back Daniel Adeboboye was the best Canadian off the bench (28 reps).

Waterloo defensive back Tyrell Ford had a vertical of 36.5 inches, the same result he got last week at the University of Buffalo pro day, while his twin brother Tre Ford, the quarterback of the The Warriors, who was the best player in Canadian college football last year, had a 35.5-inch effort. Tre Ford did 17 reps on the bench, two more than his brother.

And Canadian linebacker Tyrell Richards, who last played football in 2020 for Syracuse, had a 37.5-inch vertical and 19 reps off the bench.

Oram-Jones has spent time familiarizing himself with the nuances of Canadian soccer. Certainly, the longer, wider field gives players more room, but Oram-Jones feels the scrimmage yardage could help a running back.

“They (defensive linemen) are a yard behind and that’s a big difference for a running back in terms of being able to get to your holes,” he said. “I’m at USC playing on the scouting team at practice and you have great (defensive) linemen and you might get hit while getting the trade sometimes because they’re there.

“With the longer, wider field, it’s a higher passing league and on USC pro day I was able to run my routes with no issues, no drops. I also ran some routes from wide receiver.”

Oram-Jones feels that his career over time has helped him in football.

“As a driver, you are moving from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible while avoiding anything that gets in your way,” he said. “As a runner, you’re doing pretty much the same thing if you think about it.

“Football and racing are very similar in terms of reaction time, peripheral vision, depth perception, spatial awareness, foreign objects and tracking multiple objects at once, definitely.”

Despite her racing background, Oram-Jones said she doesn’t need speed when she’s driving in public. In fact, he makes a conscious effort to travel below the speed limit.

Unless you’re approaching a roundabout, that is.

“If I go in at 60 (kilometers per hour) I could do everything at 60,” he said with a laugh. “But I drive slow on purpose in public because I know I can drive fast.

“When I’m driving I see things a lot further ahead because as a racing driver you’re used to looking around corners and through cars, whereas most people just look at the car in front of them. But I’m like, ‘Oh, that six-car broke down too soon for this corner,’ and people will be like, ‘What are you looking at? There’s no way you can see that.’ But I do.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on March 26, 2022.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press