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Racing helped Oram-Jones on the football field, ready for the CFL World Draft

Samuel Oram-Jones doesn’t regret swapping his racing helmet for a football helmet, but wonders daily how different his life would have been had he stayed behind the wheel.

The five-foot-eight, 195-pound running back is among the world players who will compete in the CFL’s national combined 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 current Max Verstappen, George Russell, Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris. Formula One driver.

In fact, Verstappen won the 2021 F1 driver’s 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 program, worked on the 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,” said the well-spoken Oram-Jones. “I think most Formula 1 grids are made up of guys I raced against or was a teammate with.

“When I was a teammate with Leclerc, for example, they sent him and me out onto the track to race one-on-one and I remember he won by a few tenths. Now I look and I’m like, ‘You’re Ferrari’s No. 1 driver, you just won the Bahrain Grand Prix, and I was right there.’ Of course I’m thinking ‘what if’ but at this point there’s spilled milk under the bridge I’m definitely doing everything I can to make football my dream and lifelong goal now and I hopefully I can do a good job this weekend.”

Oram-Jones dropped out of racing – he had been offered an F3 race – to attend Durham University in England to pursue a degree in business and management.

“No regrets at all,” he said. “I do my best in everything I do and if it works, it works.

“Otherwise I just put the other foot forward and see where it takes me.”

Durham University unexpectedly led Oram-Jones into American football.

“I went back to playing even though I had no plan,” he said. “I was lucky that scholarship running backs at Durham took me under their wing.”

Oram-Jones helped Durham University win the 2018 Universities and Colleges Sport national title. After graduating, Oram-Jones then headed to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee to work on his master’s degree while serving as a backup running back.

Then in the fall of 2020, Oram-Jones attended USC as a transfer grad. He saw no 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 World Draft is scheduled for May 3.

“It’s been an interesting (trip),” Oram-Jones said. “I certainly try to paint it as positively as possible (but) there have certainly been many difficult moments in my footballing journey.

“But I was lucky that when I trained off season, pros like LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore took me under their wing. I hope I get selected by one of the Canadian teams and a coach does the I can assure anyone I’ll be the best study they’ve ever had.

Oram-Jones has spent time getting to grips with the nuances of Canadian football. Granted, the longer and wider field gives players more space, but Oram-Jones thinks the yard off the line of scrimmage could help a running back.

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

“With the longer and wider field it’s a more passing rich league and on the USC pro day I was able to run my routes smoothly with no falls. I also ran a few routes from a wide receiver.”

Oram-Jones credits his running time with helping him in football.

“As a driver, you get from point A to point B in the fastest possible way while avoiding anything that comes your way,” he said. “As a running back, you do pretty much the same thing if you think about it.

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

Despite his racing background, Oram-Jones said he doesn’t need speed when driving in public. In fact, he is making a conscious effort to drive below the speed limit.

Unless he’s approaching a roundabout, of course.

“If I get there at 60 (kilometers per hour), I could do it all at 60,” he said with a laugh. “But I purposely drive slowly in public because I know I can drive fast.

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

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