Andrew Kilby might well have to tap into his pandemic patience, yet again.
In signing his commitment letter with the Waterloo Warriors football program last week, the St Benedict Bears’ senior and SDSSAA all-star who slid seamlessly into the summer schedule of the Sudbury Spartans in 2022 acknowledged that one of the primary appeals of his new OUA coaching staff was their willingness not to sugar-coat the reality for soon-to-be high-school graduates.
The simple truth is that far more often than not, the pathway to even making it on the field for a recruit’s first university game action is typically two years or more in the making. That’s not that big a deal for the well-spoken 18 year-old who is about as “football” as they come.
“I was born into a football family,” said Kilby, who will attend his first OUA training camp this coming August, just as he prepares to jump head first into the academic challenge that is obtaining a degree in Kinesiology during his time at Waterloo.
“My grandfather was an amazing coach at St Charles, my uncle was a great football player and both played university ball,” he added. “I just loved picking up insights from different people in my family. My grandfather is a brilliant football mind. Talking to him about football, schemes and plays as we watch NFL together, it just means a lot being able to learn from him.”
Junior Labrosse has coached Kilby both with the Bears and the Spartans. He is not the least bit surprised at the zest for the game that is continually displayed by the latest in a string of St Benedict athletes to make the jump to the U Sports ranks.
“Based on the person and the athlete and the commitment that he has, the sky is the limit for Andrew,” said Labrosse at the signing ceremony last week. “He is an extremely coachable player. The (Waterloo) coaching staff are getting a gem.”
Understanding far better than most just how big the gap is between the secondary school ranks and the OUA (and other Canadian university conferences), Labrosse is ever so thankful when recruiting schools support the messaging that he passes along to his athletes with dreams of playing at the next level.
“The coaching staff have been amazing at laying down the expectations,” said Labrosse. “Being that honest can only lead to success in their program.”
All of that said, the NFC Hall of Famer as a defensive back also knows that Kilby is far more prepared than most who leave the city, largely due to the body of work that the young linebacker produced with the Spartans last summer.
“Playing against men did not intimidate him,” said Labrosse. “He would absorb everything that a guy like Conrad (NFC all-star LB Erik Conrad) would tell him, all of the tips – but even more, I saw Andrew making plays. I think he finished third on the team in tackles. He is able to compete at that level.”
The foundation for that development came years ago, from the same organization that has groomed so many a young man on the gridiron over the years. It’s also where Kilby first recognized his propensity for the defensive part of the game.
“I was in the Joe MacDonald (Youth) Football League and scored a touchdown and then sacked a quarterback, and I decided I liked sacking the quarterback a lot more,” said Kilby with a laugh.
Starting from the age of eight, this only child in the family would take those Sunday afternoon living-room lessons directly on to the classroom that is the James Jerome Sports Complex. “Joe Mac gave me my first opportunity to learn how to hit,” he said.
“It teaches you how to hit properly, teaches you the good techniques and gets you acclimated to hitting so that in high-school, it’s not so much of a culture shock.”
In fact, each and every level of progression comes with new teachings and the Northern Football Conference (NFC), home to countless men who have come out the other side of a university football program was no different.
“I had to focus on getting leverage, getting low, keeping my feet moving in case they made a juke move,” said Kilby of his time with the Spartans. “I couldn’t just rely on blind senseless aggression like I could in high-school.”
This next phase will be no different. There will be plenty for Kilby to absorb, both in class and on the field. “It was a very academic-based visit,” the teenager noted of his time at one of the country’s most decorated post-secondary institutions. “Half the day was devoted to showing me the Kinesiology department.”
And then there are the football assignments.
“I am not an overly big guy right now so I will be getting in the weight room even more,” said Kilby. “I need to build up some muscle, build up some speed and definitely study their playbook to know the ins and outs of their systems.”
“I see him potentially as an outside linebacker,” opined coach Labrosse. “But because they are not promising him to start that very first year, he may be a middle linebacker by the time they deem his ready to go.”
Waiting for that day will take some patience – but for a young man who persevered through all that a global pandemic had to offer, patience is something that he has a plenty.