Jumping from Tier 2 high school football in Squamish to the Quebec Division of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) has proven quite the experience for 2013 Howe Sound Secondary School (HSSS) grad Tyson Thompson.
The former Sounders star is on the roster for the Bishop’s University Gaiters but has yet to dress in a game. In the meantime, he’s paying his dues on the practice roster and trying to soak in as much knowledge as he can from coaches and veterans on the Gaiters’ offensive line.
“It’s been pretty eyeopening,” he said. “Just the level of play and terminology is a big step up. It’s a giant playbook and there are so many different assignments and different plays. Every player has a lot of responsibilities and when you play offensive line, if you miss your responsibility it could mean someone ends up getting hurt or the team gets hurt.”
Thompson arrived in Lennoxville, Que., on Aug. 15 to take part in the Gaiters’ training camp and started training camp morning at 8:30 a.m. until the team’s season opener on Sept. 1. Camp included on-field duties, hours of film research and time in the weight room.
“It was pretty much a full-time job for the first couple of weeks there,” he said.
According to Thompson, learning from the coaches and his teammates has been a valuable experience.
“The coaches have been really good to me,” he said. “I’ve learned more in the last two months than I did in the rest of my football playing days. And just being around the seniors has been huge. Some of them are in their fourth or fifth years on the offensive line and are trying to go pro. It’s a cool experience to be around — I’m pretty sure every guy on the offensive line benches 400 pounds.”
Gaiters head coach Kevin Mackey told The Chief that Thompson has a world of potential.
“He’s your prototypical young offensive lineman,” he said. “But he’s come in with a great work ethic and his potential is unbelievable. He’s got the frame, the height and the footwork — the sky is the limit for Tyson.”
Mackey said Thompson needs to work on the technical aspects of his game, put on weight and get stronger, but said he’s noticed Thompson’s progress.
“His improvement from the first day of training camp to now has been tremendous,” he said. “If he can continue to keep making that jump, he could be an incredible player. Things come easy to him and he’s so fluid as an athlete. But whenever you come to a new place, it can be tough and he needs to know the commitment you have to have to play in the CIS.”
Thompson said he understands that he needs to keep working hard to realize his potential.
“The coaches have told me I can go as far as I want to but I have to put the effort and work in,” he said. “I had a bit of a rough first month here adjusting and getting focused but I’ve had a really good past three weeks and the coaches have been happy with me. It’s up to me to put in the work and they’ve told me if I keep it up, I have a good chance of starting next year.”
Mackey pointed out that three of the team’s offensive linemen are graduating this year, which leaves holes on the offensive line that Thompson could help fill. Meanwhile, the Gaiters are off to a solid start with a record of four wins and two losses and are second in their division.
Thompson said he will make a trip to Squamish during the Gaiters’ upcoming bye week and get to spend Thanksgiving week at home.
“I’m looking forward to seeing my friends and family and checking out the Sounders game on Saturday (Oct. 12),” he said. “It’ll be good to be home — I think I miss my mom’s cooking the most.”
For more information on the Bishop’s athletics, visit www.gaiters.ca.