Players huddle up for Canada
Garrett Meek and Jackson Ryan played for U19 national team against United States at 2014 International Bowl in Texas
Saturday, Mar 01, 2014 06:00 am
Lining up for Canada at the 2014 International Bowl was the thrill of a lifetime for two St. Albert football players.
Garrett Meek and Jackson Ryan huddled up against USA Football’s U19 squad recently at Maverick Stadium at the University of Texas in Arlington.
“It was pretty crazy actually. It was all pretty surreal,” said Ryan, a Grade 12 fullback from the Bellerose Bulldogs. “I didn’t know what to expect going in there for that level of play. All I had played was high school so it was a bit of a transition playing-wise but overall everything was pretty amazing.”
Meek was Canada’s flag bearer in the 43-7 loss.
“That was pretty cool. It was a big honour for me,” said the University of Saskatchewan Huskies’ defensive lineman. “Overall it was a lot of fun. I got to play with all the best players in Canada and to go against American guys who will be in the NFL shortly was awesome.”
The 60-man U19 roster was selected from close to 500 players who participated in regional identification camps across Canada.
Ryan is the first Bellerose player to compete on the international stage.
“It meant a lot to be picked for something like this. I wasn’t really expecting it to be honest but it was definitely a pleasant surprise and a confidence booster too,” he said.
The six-foot, 255-pound Bulldog was one of the few players on the team who played high school football in Canada or with a United States prep school last year.
“It was good experience. It kind of gave me a look towards next year playing against a higher level of competition,” Ryan said.
The 45-man U18 national team also competed during the International Bowl weekend and defeated USA Football’s U18 team 53-9.
Players from the U19 and U18 teams were also auditioning for spots on the 45-man Canadian roster for the 2014 U19 World Championship in Kuwait.
The U19 American team was comprised of some of the top recruits from the 2014 class.
“They had a fast, strong and big team. They were good. I was definitely impressed by their level of play and the talent of the guys,” said Ryan, who turns 18 next week.
The former Sexsmith Sabre stepped onto the field in the second and fourth quarters.
“I didn’t get the ball the whole game. I just blocked,” Ryan said. “I didn’t get a ton of time. They didn’t use a fullback a lot in their offensive package.”
Ryan played in a variety of formations in the Bellerose backfield but wasn’t a mainstay at fullback for the Carr conference division one semifinalists in the metro Edmonton league.
“I learned quite a bit about the fullback position. I didn’t really play a lot of it this year but I had really good coaches down there so it was really quick to pick it up,” he said.
Meek, 19, started and played basically the whole game.
“I played the whole first quarter and most of the fourth and in the second and third quarters I subbed in a bit,” said the six-foot-three and 285-pound Huskie.
The halftime score was 22-7.
“We didn’t do too well but it was a lot of fun. All the guys were great and the coaches were awesome,” Meek said.
It was the most game action Meek saw since high school after redshirting his first season with the Huskies.
“It really helped me to redshirt. I learned more as a player than if I played and maybe got tossed around the waters a bit,” said the bantam graduate of the 2009 Tier II provincial finalist St. Albert Fury who played three seasons with St. Albert Storm midget team in the Capital District Minor Football Association.
Meek was a standout three-year starter with the Ross Sheppard Thunderbirds and the team’s nominee for MVP honours in the Edmonton public league in Grade 12. He was also saluted as Shep’s top defensive player and lineman and was recognized by the team for his dedication at the offseason workout sessions.
Meek is pumped to play a prominent role for the Huskies when the 2014 Canada West campaign kicks off.
“Being part of the Saskatchewan Huskies is fun,” he said. “Last year I had to practice a lot against the first team, so when you’re going against our starting offensive line, which is one of the best in the country I thought, it really helped me improve as a player. We had some good coaches there too and that helped a lot.”
Ryan is also looking forward to the next stage of his football career following his only season at Bellerose after earning his stripes with Sexsmith in the Mighty Peace League. The co-recipient of the Bulldogs’ outstanding offensive player award rushed for 278 yards on 46 carries and scored three touchdowns while battling injuries. He also filled in occasionally on the defensive line and in the playoffs saw some action at linebacker.
“I just want to suck all the life out of football as possible,” said Ryan, who is leaning towards playing junior for the Edmonton Huskies.