This is Johnny Augustine’s time to shine.
The Gryphon running back is at the Canadian Football League’s national combine in Regina where he’s out to show the teams that he’s professional football material.
“I’m very privileged and honoured,” he said. “They only invite the first 30 and they’ll add another 15 or 20. Just to be recognized at that level, (I feel) very privileged and honoured. I was very excited, but at the same time I knew how hard I’ve worked the last four or five years so, to me, it’s not a surprise, but it’s a nice, sweet feeling.”
Augustine has worked hard since arriving on the University of Guelph campus with the dream of becoming a pro football player and it paid off with the invitation.
“That’s the way I see it. I put in the work and I get rewarded,” he said.
Since the end of the 2016 season, Augustine has been preparing to participate in one of the CFL’s combines and that has meant changing up his training routine.
“It’s a lot different in the aspect that in the season you’re preparing to play football,” he said. “For this, you’re preparing for a little bit of football, but also for testing. Your speed, you’ve got to run the 40-yard dash and you’ve got to practise on your technical speed work and you’ve got to do agility stuff – bench, strength. It’s a lot different. I’m in football shape, but at the same time I’m also in higher fitness preparation. It’s a lot different.”
Augustine figures he’s in the best shape he’s ever been in and could probably play a high-intensity football game with just two weeks of preparation for it.
“Most seasons start in August for us, September,” he said. “That’s when you want to start peaking. Right now, I’m peaked in March. That usually doesn’t happen. We’re still usually in our strength phase. You can lift and some running, but it’s not as crucial. We have another three or four months. Being in this shape is definitely new, but at the same time it’s going to help me go into the season.”
There’ll be more than testing at the combine as teams want to know the type of person each athlete is. They want to know that if they draft a player he’s not going to have a negative effect on the team.
“There’ll be a bunch of interviews,” Augustine said. “Basically the teams that are interested in you want to know you, your background. That itself is also a test. Obviously there’s the physical, but there’ll come a time when there’s the mental. They’ll quiz us and just try to know our backgrounds. That’s a big part to be prepared for.”
And that could lead to some butterflies for the players.
“Nerves come,” he said. “I’ll admit that when I got the invite in December, I was relaxed. It was ‘Oh cool.’ It was exciting, but. January I was fine, but as the weeks go by, it’s creeping. It’s just like a football game. You’re nervous for the first play. I’m sure after the first interview, after the first test, after the first football drill, I’ll be back to being me. You can only be nervous for so long and at the end of the day, you’ve just got to do you. I’m expecting the best of the best and I’m expecting to really excel because this is something I’ve been training for for a while now.”
Augustine has dreamed of becoming a professional athlete since he was a kid. At first it was to play pro basketball. Then it was to become a professional boxer.
“Come high school, I love football and I want to play professional football,” he said. “Things worked out well in high school. And then you’re in university and you’re ‘I want to play pro’ year in and year out and then bam. It’s right there. My life could literally change this year and go into my career and not only my career, my dream.
“Everyone has their destiny. It’s how many want to do their actual dream. I know what my back-up plans are and I know I’ll be fine in that sense, but it’s basically if I’m going to do my dream and this is my dream. I’ve thought about it so long and it’s right here behind me. I can feel it and I’m really excited to just be given that opportunity. I’m going to give it all I’ve got.”
Giving it all he’s got includes a strict diet. Like most student-athletes, his diet has changed significantly since the day he first stepped on the U of G campus.
“Before then, I used to be really big on my nutrition,” he said. “Now it’s everything’s to a T. I use my skill and I weigh all my food out, all my proportions. I count my calories, my exact macros -- everything because at the end of the day, what you put in will show. Also, it’s a mental thing, too. Knowing that I ate healthy and I feel healthy, that gives me that extra confidence and extra boost. Also injury-wise, it’s just good for your body overall.
“I basically eat to perform, I don’t eat to enjoy it. Once in a while I will, obviously, at family gatherings and stuff. I eat to perform because when I perform, that’s the greatest feeling.”
A sociology student who’s also taking leadership courses, Augustine feels the key to success in school for a student-athlete is to stay on top of everything.
“I do admit it’s a lot difficult during combine prep, but I just always make sure I stay on top of my readings. I’m always making sure I get my assignments done,” he said. “That’s where time management is key to put yourself in a good position. Sometimes I’ll do things well ahead just to make sure I’m in that good position.
“If you’re organized and you have good time management skills, you’ll be OK. I believe that people can juggle 10 things. It’s who can do it properly. I’ve done a lot of things like work, play football, school – I’ve done it all. It’s just getting my planner out.”
If Augustine gets drafted May 7 and things don’t work out the way he wants them to at that team’s training camp despite his best effort, he won’t be disappointed to return to the Gryphons for a fifth and final season.
“The way I look at it, no, it won’t be disappointing,” he said. “I know that if I give it all I’ve got and it’s not good enough, then so be it. That’s the one thing, though. You never want to go with any doubt.
“If I know I’ve given it all I’ve got, that’s all I can ask for. Then it’s, OK, come back another year and try to develop and see where I can fix my mistakes. If I come back, it’s coming back to a great program that’s treated me well for the last four years.”
And Augustine has advice for the players who’ll be freshmen with the Gryphons in 2017 or even further in the future.
“Any kid that comes to the Gryphon program is going to get the best,” he said. “My advice is to take advantage of all the things that are given to you. The No. 1 thing is academics. You can only play football for so long. From the tutors that are given to us, mentors on the team, the SAM program -- use all those resources.
“When it comes to the training, the strength and conditioning program that we have and all the skill sessions that we have and even talking to the coaches one on one, you need to use that. Any player that comes in, I don’t care where you’re ranked, you start from the bottom and you have to work your way up. I was in that spot. The people who end up making it and going far with it are those who used all the resources. My advice is to use all the resources to be the best you can be.
“What it comes down to is who wants to put in that extra effort. It’s not going to be handed to you. It doesn’t work like that.”