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Last training camp something special for Justin Chapdelaine

August 19, 2013

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

When a fellow gets to his fifth intercollegiate football training camp, there’s a lot of stuff that’s familiar.

“It gets old,” Justin Chapdelaine allowed. “It’s what makes you better but it becomes routine. Going into my third year as a receiver, it’s simple. It’s pretty much like walking. You don’t have to think too much. The plays come.”

Still, it’s not the same. When it’s your last one, even something as ritualistic and tedious as training camp can hold a certain amount of charm for a player, especially once such as Chapdelaine who is back with the Queen’s Golden Gaels at peace with the belief that professional football probably isn’t in his future.

In the spring of 2012, Chapdelaine played in the East-West Bowl, a showcase for players going into their Canadian Football League draft year. This spring, he was invited to participate in the annual CFL combine, where the best Canadian-bred seniors are put through their paces by scouts preparing their last pre-draft assessments.

Chapdelaine subsequently didn’t get drafted, and neither was he invited to attend a CFL training camp.

“I’m blessed to have been part of that and go through the motions of trying out to be a professional athlete,” he said. “Unfortunately it didn’t work out but I’m happy with that. I’m going to go through this year and see what my opportunities are.”

Again, the experience helped to redefine Chapdelaine’s outlook.

“You’ve got to be the best on your team in order to play at a higher level,” he said. “All those guys who were at the combine, they had a higher level of concentration than I had going. I believe they prepped a lot better than me.

“I know with (Laval’s) S.J. Haidara, playing with him in the East-West and I saw him at the combine, he was so focused on one goal, and look what he’s doing now in the CFL.”

Gone, then, for Chapdelaine is the pressure of trying to impress pro scouts, and with it the attendant frustration of, for instance, opportunities lost, such as not getting the ball thrown to him when he’s open.

“Maybe last year I would have been upset (by that),” he said. “This year I’m not going to be as upset, just have fun with the year and the goal right now is to go win a Vanier Cup.

“It’s not about statistics. We’ve got a great crew and I think we can go all the way.”

Chapdelaine said this summer was different, more mellow, perhaps one might even say more typical for a 22-year-old about to begin his last year of university.

“My prep was a lot different from other years because going into fourth year you want to work really hard to prep for that CFL combine,” he said. “You know that’s your year to establish yourself.

“I did train a lot (this) summer but I also took time for myself. I wanted to have a good summer, as well. I did train with the guys here but I’d take weeks off and go hang out with my girlfriend.”

While the importance of focus registered loud and clear with Chapdelaine from his combine experience, he says he intends to achieve that in the context of what he’s always done.

“Everyone has a different approach to the game,” he said. “I like to stay relaxed and stay loose. I don’t think too much about it until I get to the game and that’s when I start thinking and focusing and concentrating on that.

“I’m going to take it the way I’ve always taken it and hope for the best.”

In the meantime Chapdelaine plans to enjoy himself — “it’s my last year so I’m going to have a fun time and I hope we can go all the way with it” — and relish the thought that he can help the team’s younger players, one of whom next year will take his place.

“It’s kind of odd because it (feels) like my first year was just last year,” he said. “It’s hard for me to believe I’m a fifth-year (player) and it’s my last year. It’s going to be tough at the end of the season when it comes.

“Right now, I guess you can say I am helping people on the field, and hope that after I’m gone they can do what I’ve done, or better. I pray for the best for them and want to help them right now.”

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From → CIS football

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