Camp slowing down for Gryph veteran Fraser

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

GUELPH – Once you get that first training camp out of the way, the butterflies in the stomach disappear and the camp seems to slow down a lot.

“It gets easier every year so this one, so far, has been the easiest,” Guelph Gryphon receiver Aidan Fraser said. “It’s going well. Everyone is flying around out there and people are picking up the plays. It’s been good.”

The Bishop Macdonell CHS graduate is in his third OUA football camp with the Gryphons.

“You get used to how to take care of your body, how to study your plays,” he said. “The game slows down mentally every year you’re in it, the more experience you get.”

Fraser has one of the best work ethics on the team, something that is spurred on by the team’s goal.

“The way I look at it is my goal and everyone’s goal here is to win a Vanier Cup and I basically have five years to do that so in those five years I’m going to do everything I can, be it on the field or off the field, to put myself and the team in the best position to make a run at the Vanier.”

That work ethic could also be a result of his stature as he’s the smallest receiver in camp.

“I’ve been the smallest guy on the field my whole life,” Fraser said. “Being 5-8 out there, it’s tough sometimes, but you learn to play and to work with your strengths and you can’t be scared out there. It doesn’t matter how big you are, if you know what you’re doing and you have the skill set to do it, then at the end of the day it’s just football. To me it’s what I’ve been doing my whole life.

“If you train right and take care of your body, it doesn’t matter how big or small you are, you’ll be able to get through it.”

While team playbooks change every season, there are likely more changes in the Gryphon offensive playbook this year with Jean-Francois Joncas replacing Todd Galloway as the offensive coordinator when Galloway stepped into the full-time recruiter role.

“It’s a little bit different,” Fraser said of the playbook. “There are a lot of concepts that are still the same and stuff that kind of overlaps, but there are definitely some changes and some new things. Guys are moving around a bit, trying out some new spots. It’s all good stuff, though.”

And the players have had a little bit of time to get used to the changes.

“Since we got it in the spring, coach JF has made it really easy for us. He’s given it to us incrementally, in little bits, and we’ve been able to digest it over the course of probably six months now,” Fraser said. “When we get full go and full speed and putting it in now, it’s a lot easier. I imagine for rookies coming in it might be a bit of an adjustment, their first OUA playbook, but so far the coaches have been really good giving it to us incrementally and letting us break it down, digest it and execute it.”

In an aim to get on the field more, Fraser has been among the players returning punts during the first three days of training camp.

“I’ve always kind of been hanging around with the returners and I’d always do it at early-outs, but this is kind of the first year (special forces coordinator) Bill Brown has really put me back there and had me returning punts. I’m just looking to contribute any way I can, be it on specials or offence. If that means returning punts, I’m happy to do it.”

Returning punts or kickoffs is nothing new for Fraser as that’s a job he had in District 10 high school football with the Bishop Mac Celtics.

Being one of the hometown guys on the Gryphons could be added pressure, but Fraser doesn’t see it that way.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to play for your hometown and to see the people you know come out to support you at games and at Homecoming. I don’t think it’s extra pressure. We grew up kind of being involved with the Gryphons. I remember being in minor football and these guys would coach us and they were guys I kind of looked up to and were my role models and it’s cool to kind of transition into the role where now you’re someone else’s role model and you’re giving back to the community. The Guelph guys on the team are kind of tight. We all have that Guelph blood in us where we know where we’re from.”

Fraser has also been involved in coaching minor football during the summers, but he cut back on it this summer.

“This was the second summer I did that. Last year I did it for the whole summer but this year I had to stop because I’m going into my third year and I wanted all my focus to be on my training and being ready and being in the best position I can, the best shape I can be for this camp so I kind of fell off there. But it’s something that I do really enjoy to do and I try to go out of my way, especially with the younger kids, to help coach whenever I can.”

A big part of the student-athlete equation is performing in class. You have to keep your marks up to be eligible to play.

“School’s going good. I’m still eligible, so that’s good. It’s just like football, you have to get the hang of it and get used to it.”

And, just like the first training camp, the first year at university is also the toughest school-wise.

“The first year, it’s a big transition,” Fraser said. He’s a Bachelor of Arts Psychology student. “You’re coming out here and you’re getting beat up day in and day out by the fifth-year guys. You’re running on scout (team) and you’re trying to get your bearings here and you’ve got a course load to worry about too with more expectations there. First year is definitely the toughest year, but it gets easier. You know the profs and you know the courses. You get your methods and when the season comes around, you just lock in and you almost go on autopilot. You have your habits and you know what you do and you just go.”

Fraser caught four passes for 27 yards last season and will be looking to improve on those numbers this season.

The Gryphs are to play the St. Francis Xavier X-Men and Mount Allison Mounties in exhibition action at Antigonish, N.S., this weekend and open their OUA regular season hosting the Ottawa Gee-Gees at Alumni Stadium Aug. 20 at 1 p.m.