The road from Toronto to Sudbury is hardly a straight, direct line. A sharp veer to the north-west, just outside of Barrie, followed by a stretch of meandering through the Muskokas, all well before navigating through the lovely French River corridor en route to the Nickel City.
For Cambrian Golden Shield veteran and team leader Richard John, getting from point "A" to point "B" took far more twists and turns than most. For starters, soccer hardly even seemed like the sport of choice for young "R.J.", the name by which he answers most routinely to these days in Sudbury.
"I did track when I was younger and I was good, for a while, but soccer kind of messed up my knees a bit," said the 24 year-old striker. "My dad was a basketball player, so he wanted me to get into it, but soccer eventually took off."
A graduate of Westview Centennial Secondary School in North York, John had contemplated attending York University, suiting up with the Lions. Unfortunately, he fell one university credit short. Fortunately, York assistant coach Hieu Quach had crossed paths with Giuseppe Politi.
"That coach (Quach) had always helped me out, so I thought, why not?", said John. He had been to Sudbury before, battling Cambrian teammate Aaron Dent in Ontario Cup action. It took a short while, but the incoming freshman would gradually settle into a role.
"I started at centre mid, when I was younger, but one year I got a new coach and he decided to put me at striker," said John. "I wasn't always the fastest, so I would kind of play as a second striker. Here, I started as a CAM (Central Attacking Midfielder)."
"I like the ball to my feet and we play more of a long ball to the strikers, so Giuseppe decided to switch me and Marcello (Tantalo), and it worked out fine. Our wingers were playmakers, so I would find him (Marcello) and he would score."
As he now prepares for his fifth and final year with the Shield, John recalled the welcoming approach that he ensures is passed along to the incoming class of freshmen. "I was up here, by myself, I didn't know anybody," he said.
"My first year, the soccer team, we were like a family. Everybody was so inviting. We all became good friends."
Much has changed over the course of the past four years. Richard John has witnessed that personal evolution, both on the field, as well as in the locker room. "I am a somewhat different soccer player now," he suggested.
"I'm not as fit as I used to be, so now I get the ball and try and move the ball. And for me, I've been there, the guy who doesn't know anybody, so I try and get to know everyone, show them that they're welcomed, that you're part of the family."
"I try and help the rookies stay on track, focus on the season."
Memories have already been made, but R.J. is all too aware that this is his last chance to add to that scrapbook, the tales of his career as a varsity athlete. "We have to work on our finishing," he suggested, looking ahead to the 2019 campaign.
"We build the play, we get there, we just struggle at times with finishing."
And though it wasn't necessarily soccer, for Richard John, right out of the gate, this is certainly the sport that now eases his across the finish line. "If I don't make it professionally, I hope that I'm still kicking it around with friends," he said.
"This year is my last year at the school, and I would like to leave the school with something special."
Pretty sure he already has.