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Aden Durde began his football career under humble beginnings, playing in London for the Olympians and later the Scottish Claymores before making it to the practice squads of the Carolina Panthers and the Kansas City Chiefs. Durde is now a valued defensive line coach with the Dallas Cowboys, where part of his focus is on slowing down opposing quarterbacks and also developing strategy around pass rushing.
M&F sat down with Durde to find out how a man from Middlesex, England, became such an integral part of the Dallas Cowboys, and how his unit works to get the best out of the team.
A quick internet search on Aden Durde brings highly positive reviews, and many people credit him with helping to shake-up the Cowboys defensive unit into one of the most efficient in all of the NFL. That’s not the kind of hoopla that the easy going Durde will be drawn on however, simply stating that success is teamwork and that it takes a number of highly skilled people, such as defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, to enforce change within a team.
Of course, one of the wilder aspects of coaching with the Dallas Cowboys is not just about personnel, but in learning to live with some of those extreme temperatures. “You know what, the weather is insane in Texas,” says Durde. “In the summer it is ridiculously hot. I think last year they had, like, 30 days of 100 degrees or more. Then, in the last two years they’ve had these weeks where there are ice storms and it’s negative 20. Recently it was just 77 and the next day, it was zero.”
The Cowboys mostly train at “The Star” in Frisco, TX, a 91-acre campus that also serves as the team’s headquarters. But exactly where at The Star a player should train, and for how long, is of constant consideration for the staff. “It can affect things like practice. If the ball needs to be thrown, we might go inside. But even if it’s super cold, if we’re gonna train outside, we’ll still train outside.”
Aden Durde Has Traveled Far with the NFL
Durde initially interned at the Atlanta Falcons, where he was later offered a job, and he also interned at the Cowboys, where he now calls home. He’s the NFL’s first full-time British coach and a defensive specialist, who has worked tirelessly to help others make the same journey that he’s made by working with The NFL Academy, a major initiative that aims to use American football to create life-changing opportunities for young people in the UK. (Learn more about the NFL Academy.) But wherever a potential superstar may come from, what does Durde look for in the next great player?
“Say there’s 11 players at play. Within those 11 players are probably around eight to 11 positions that you can [scout for],” says Durde. “And then, you kind of split them up into physical traits and you break those down, and how those traits relate to the game.” When it comes to spotting talent, Durde is highly qualified. In addition to being involved with the NFL Academy, he also worked on a program known as the International Player Pathway, where his crew would go and look for athletes who were not already playing football. “You would have to kind of project what position they would play, and train them in that position if they had a certain movement or physical trait,” he shares.
Durde recalls once seeing a rugby player on film, and being impressed by his reaction speeds and agility. It seems that the secret to finding great football players is to cast the net wide. Durde also says that observing how Dan Quinn has been able to watch players and identify qualities that could help the team has been of great value to him. “He’s done a good job of altering the course of the way we were going,” says Durde. “And, hopefully we will keep moving forward.”
For Aden Durde and the Dallas Cowboys, Hard Work Pays Off
“The defense that we play now is different to the defense that we played before,” reflects Durde on the team’s recent improvements. The Cowboys’ dropback success rate, and rush success rate, improved massively in 2022 when compared with the previous year. Durde says that one of the secrets to the Cowboy’s recent successes is that everyone has a chance to be heard and inject ideas. “You watch so much film,” he shares. “So, you see a lot of people doing other things and you think, ‘That could work for us.’” Durde prides himself on spotting opportunities that can be translated to his team. “Part of it, is mentally creating it, and part of it is drawing it up,” says Durde of how he develops his strategy. Those strategies are then trialed, explored, and put to the test on the field to see if they pass muster.
Building the ultimate footballing athlete involves more than one unit. Durde says that he has a great relationship with the strength and conditioning coaches such as Harold Nash Jr. and that they collaborate to determine what a player needs to get more from their performance. Then, there’s the recovery aspect. “Those things are at the forefront of people minds,” says Durde. “Like sleep, hydration, the food that they put in their bodies. I think more and more it’s becoming the forefront of a lot of conversations. Especially as we play some night games, so those things you have to think about.”
For many readers, the big question will be around how players are evaluated following a game. “You do that the day after the game,” says Durde. “You review the game and you talk about it as a group. Then you go with the [individual] players and talk it through with those guys.” But how easy is to critique today’s NFL superstars? “I think, as long as you are being honest, and you are talking about the growth of what they can achieve, I don’t think it’s a negative conversation,” says Durde. “If something needs to be fixed, then we need to fix it. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be fixed, they may be doing it really well, and you talk about that as well.”