For every CIS player, the prize is the Vanier Cup. Each year approximately 2600 players across the country set a goal, which is to win the big prize. Only a handful achieve that goal. For rookies and fifth years alike, their pursuit to win the Vanier is relentless.
Rookies tend to be overwhelmed with the amount of information they need to process, while the fifth years act as mentors and leaders. The veterans have learned things during their younger years that help keep the goals in perspective.
Huskies receiver, Braeden George, is one of those fifth years who has learned to pace himself throughout the season.
“Entering my fifth year, I am looking at this more like a marathon, rather than a sprint,” George said after practice yesterday. “It’s important to keep a long-term vision–and that is to win the Vanier Cup, but focus on the short-term goals, which is something that you have to learn.”
“When I was a rookie, the veterans that I looked up to, like Cory Jones, Scott McHenry and Hubert Buydens, they always told me to take a long view of the season,” he said. “It is a battle, you feel different in week four than you do now, so I am trying to take a more objective view in my final season.”
“Cory and Hubert were not the most vocal guys, they kind of led by example, and that was their role on the team,” said George. “I feel that is my role here. Hubert was always the first guy to pick you up when you were down and I learned a lot from him.”
George, who is 6’2” and 195 lbs, has accepted that leadership role and you can often see him teaching the young guys some things between plays.
“Braeden helps out the younger guys so that they can understand what is going on,” said receivers coach Jason Sulz. “He is pretty vocal in keeping guys working hard.”
“Over the years he has become very comfortable with the offense,” said Sulz. “ He understands that in order to play well, you have to practice hard. That is rubbing off on some of the younger guys.”
“I always make mistakes, but I try to limit them,” George chuckled. “In the end, it is about getting better as a team and I am always willing to help give guys tips if they want them. But I have too look at myself and finds ways to get better too.”
George had his worst season statistically last year with only seven receptions and one touchdown, but he improved every year before that. This year, both the team and George expect to have a better season. George stayed in town all summer and worked out in the Huskies new facilities. He looks to be in the best shape of his career.
“Braeden has become more durable throughout his career,” said Sulz. “He is very physical and is having a good camp. His offseason preparations are paying off. He now brings lots of experience, some enthusiasm, lots of effort, and is catching the ball well.”
The Huskies are entering the season without a proven CIS starter as freshman Drew Burko will be taking over the helm. George has been helping Burko and the other quarterbacks learn more about the defenses that the Huskies face.
“Whenever the QBs have questions, I give them any advice I can,” George said. “When there is a defense in front of us on the field, it is not the same as it is upstairs on the whiteboard. The guys are doing a great job, but every once and a while if they have a question, I try to help them out.”
“We’ve got a real good group of guys and we’ve been hanging out together at camp,” said George. “We like to talk football off the field and do some trash talking. That stuff is great for team bonding and it makes us more relaxed because training camp is a bit of a grind.”
George was hired by Huskie Athletics to sell season tickets for the team this summer. He was very successful with almost 2500 season tickets sold to date. He hopes to use some of the things he learned in business on the field.
“I learned so much about the football program and how the community supports it,” he said. “The community supports us so much and we are trying to give back to the community by having success and winning some games. We also spent a lot more time in the community in the offseason and it was great to meet so many fans. I liked to put faces to names of some of the long-time Huskies supporters.”
Like many players who have recently graduated, George hopes to stay in Saskatoon when he graduates with a Bachelor or Arts in December.
“It’s possible that I might move to Calgary to work out with the bobsled team, but Saskatoon feels like home to me right now,” said George. “I would love to find a job here and stay in the city if I can.”
From a rookie five years ago, with dreams of a Vanier Cup trophy, to a veteran who understands how to handle his body and the grind of the season, the Huskies Braeden George is poised to have his best season with the team.
George and the Huskies take on the Guelph Gryphons on Friday night. Kick off is at 7:00 pm. Tickets are on sale at huskies.usask.ca or by calling 966-1111.