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Sunday, May. 19, 2019
In Samson Recollet, a leader emerges
by Randy Pascal

Stepping away from coaching football, at least for the time being, Sudbury Gladiators' bench boss Aaron Rehel is not likely to switfly recall the linescores from the summer of 2017.

Remembering some very special young men, under his tutelage, is a different story altogether. Athletes like quarterback Samson Recollet.

The 18 year-old recent graduate of Lasalle Secondary, and soon to be student at Cambrian College, followed a most unconventional path in making his way to eventually becoming the primary pivot of the Glads for a summer and a half, garnering the respect of teammates and coaches alike.

Born in Sault Ste Marie but moving to Wikwemikong at the age of one, Recollet was raised initially by his grandmother, reuniting with his mother in Guelph by the time his start in primary school arrived. Three years later, it was off to Brantford, the city which eventually introduced the young talent to football.

"In elementary school, I played a ton of sports, as much as I could," said Recollet recently. "But in high school in Brantford, you could pick just one primary sport and one secondary sport, if it worked for your schedule. Unfortunately, volleyball and football lined up with each other. I'm a huge fan of both sports, but I had to pick."

A member of the junior team at North Park Collegiate School that captured a city championship, Recollet progressed from his role as a spot bench player in grade nine, finding himself a key cog in the wheel one year later.

"In grade 10, I grew and went to defensive end," recalled the teenager of Ojibwe ancestry. "I was starting and won our team's lineman of the year." Such was the resume that Recollet would carry to Lasalle, arriving in time for his grade 11 school year after moving to Sudbury in 2014.

"I really wanted to play defensive end, because I was coming off that tide of winning the award," said Recollet. "But I've always had a pretty good arm, just throwing the football around with my brother. I showed up at the Lasalle camp and was tossing it around, and it seemed like I could throw a pretty decent lead for the receivers."

"At the end of practice, the coach came up and asked me to play quarterback. I figured I would try it out." Unfortunately, by the time Recollet arrived, the Lancers' championship squad which featured the sensational backfield tandem of Josh Cuomo and Scott Smith was now but a distant memory.

"In grade 11, I didn't know what to expect and we ended up beating only Bishop Carter," noted Recollet. "In grade 12, we started putting the pieces together. We had some receivers, we had a big enough line. We thought this could be the year to win some games."

"But we played our first game and lost a couple of guys, then we played our second game and lost a few more. By the end of the season, you're trying to scrape by with 24 guys on the roster." Lessons, however, would be learned, life lessons that will serve Recollet well in the years to come.

"It's not easy winning games," he said. "It takes a lot of hard work, and I just apply that to everyday life, especially when I am at work. I have to give me employers my all, and it's important how I hold myself."

These key traits of character would prove invaluable when Recollet, still regretting a decision not to play summer football in 2015, made his way out to the Gladiators camp in the spring of 2016.

When starter Chris Moutsatsos was felled with a mid-season injury, the OFC freshman would be put to the test, very quickly realizing exactly what was at stake. "I would be looking at the ground, in the huddle, and then I would look up and I would see all of the eyes on me," he said.

"That's when it hits you that you have to hold yourself to a higher standard, in the locker room, on the field, as a leader." It was also the point in time where his football and societal experiences would combine in allowing him to forge ahead.

"Being in an environment where I wasn't on a reserve, I was exposed to so many different things and really had to find my own way," explained Recollet. "Wherever I was living, I was typically the only aboriginal kid, so I kind of carved my own path and made my own friends."

"It gave me confidence, having the ability to hit the re-set button whenever we moved to a new city." Still, his was a self-esteem that would take a beating, at times, as his high-school team at Lasalle struggled to hit the win column more than once or twice a season.

"I think that taught me resilience, a never give up attitude," said Recollet. "Even though you're going into a game knowing that you're not going to be as competitive as most would like, you're still thinking I am going to go out there and give it my all, and I'm going to do it for the full sixty minutes."

Even as he looks back on a tough summer of football, Recollet does so understanding the growth he has shown. "Reading a defense, Neil (Petrin) really pushed me on that. It was something that I had never really been coached at very much to do, looking at corners and halfbacks and safeties, thinking this is what they might be trying to do."

"It gives you a better idea of which side to throw to, and what might open up. I saw the field a lot better this summer, the game was slower because I was more experienced." All of which just made a lopsided playoff loss to Peterborough that much more difficult a pill to swallow.

"Disappointed would probably encapsulate it pretty well," said Recollet. "We had a goal set in mind and it was nothing short of a championship." Despite the setback, it is time to move on. Fully understanding that his happiness in the pursuit of potential careers lies within hands on labour, Recollet has enrolled in the millwright program at Cambrian, looking to potentially add another trade to the mix two years from now.

As for football, he hasn't closed the door completely, though he is at least a little anxious to reward himself for the time he has put in. "The Spartans' coaches have been asking, but I've been playing ten years in a row, and it would be nice to have a break and a summer free," he said.

"I'll stick to my workout regime and see how I'm feeling in the winter." Whether in football or in life, there is much that still lies ahead for Samson Recollet.

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