COCHRANE— “I’ve always really wanted to play at the next level— At the university level,” said Jacob Mate, Grade 12 student at St. Timothy High School.
On Oct. 4 Jacob’s dream of continuing his football career came true when coach Wayne Harris of the University of Calgary Dinos made him an offer.
“I had a Zoom call back in September initially with the defensive coordinator, Mr. Matthew Berry, and he set me up with a Zoom call with the head coach, Mr. Wayne Harris,” Jacob said.
He anticipated the call would be about how to move ahead in the recruitment process, but he was in for a surprise.
“He just got straight to the point and he extended an offer. I was blown away,” he said. “I was not expecting it at all. I couldn’t believe my ears when I first heard it, I was just shocked, I was astounded… I didn’t know how to respond at first. It was a dream come true.”
On Monday (Oct. 26), Jacob paid a visit to the U of C campus to sign his commitment letter, meet his new coaches, and get a tour of the locker room and facilities.
“It was truly incredible. I got to meet the coaches, I got to shake hands with coach Harris,” he said. “It was really fantastic being able to get a taste of what’s to come, how big of a step this is going to be from high school and bantam, and midget and peewee football. They really made me feel welcome and at home, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Jacob said he followed the Dinos path to the national championship last year and is excited to play for the 2019 champs.
“Seeing the U of C Dinos and the impact that they have on the community and how big of a team they are and the impact that they have on Calgary, especially seeing them win the Vanier Cup last year… My desire to play for them has grown over the years,” he said.
Although Jacob lives in Cochrane, he plays defensive end for the St. Francis Browns football club in Calgary.
It was a gruelling schedule, but Jacob said his love of football made it easier for him to make the long commute.
“It was busy but it was worth it,” he said. “My desire to play football really made sure that I was committed to doing that.”
The St. Francis Browns football program is built on a few key aspects that make the club successful.
“When you are a part of the St. Francis Browns you feel like you aren’t just yourself, you feel like you’re a part of the team, you feel like you’re integrated into a team of brothers,” he said. “Having a good work ethic and discipline is another integral part to St. Francis Browns football.”
Many of the coaches at St. Francis are Dinos Alma Matter themselves. Jacob noted that the leadership in the St. Francis organization is a key to the team’s success.
“The coaches are amazing, most of them have played at the U Sport and the professional level,” he said. “Most of them, they went through the U of C, they played for the Dinos and they went on to play in the CFL— Multiple teams.”
Jacob said he is looking forward to seeing what the program brings, and expects he will have ample opportunities to build and develop his skillset.
“I expect a number of things, firstly being great direction and skill development. It’s a large of roster, first of all, so there are more people on the D-line who I can learn from, who I can take skills from,” he said. “With there being so much more opportunity to practice, and so much more time with the coaches and my teammates, there’s a lot more specific skill development which will help me develop into a better player.”
Jacob added that he’s also looking forward to the academic side of university, and the support that is included in the program.
The Dinos, he said, have “great academic support as well. They have a great academics coach that works with the players, to help them schedule and make their academics and their athletics work together… They know their stuff. They have a lot of knowledge and a lot of insight to offer.”
Football, Jacob said, has been a positive force in his life in many areas, not just in physical fitness.
It has given him countless priceless memories to reflect on, exposure to great people, and a litany of positive habits.
“Playing sports is great, in more ways than one,” he said. “It also helps me academically, it improves my focus and I do better in my studies. Having played football all these years, and gone through all of these teams and made all of these connections, I’ve really learned a lot. It’s set me up with these skills and habits that I need to succeed later in life.”