Training camp must feel crowded for veteran kicker Gabe Ferraro this season.
When training camp opened, there were twice as many kickers on the field than there were last year.
However, that means that there is another kicker in camp to join fourth-year Gryphon Ferraro.
“This is exciting,” he said at the end of the first day of on-field activities. “It’s great to have someone else -- someone to compare myself to, someone to help me out when I need help and I can help him out when he needs help. It’s been awesome so far.
“It’s good to always have competition to keep pushing yourself and to always keep getting better.”
Ferraro is joined by Gryphon recruit Chris MacLean who played high school football at Brampton’s St. Thomas Aquinas last fall.
“This feels awesome,” he said after the first on-field session. “It feels good to get here and see all the hard work that I’ve put in. I feel good. It’s a cool experience and I’ve got to take it all in. My parents and my other coaches, they told me to take it all in because I’m only going to experience it once. It’s a pretty cool thing to be in here as a freshman, first day and getting to know the guys and getting to take some reps on the field.”
For both, it’s almost a relief to be on the field again in a team environment after many individual workouts during the off-season.
“There was a lot of hard work this summer,” Ferraro said. “Since January I’ve been kicking three to four times a week and I’ve been working out three to four times a week so I’ve just been working hard this summer.”
“I’ve been in the gym all winter, all spring and all summer so I’ve just been trying to put on a lot of fat-twitch muscle and a lot of weight and stuff like that and to try to get my mechanics down,” MacLean said. “(I want to) get a feel for the ball and get to the point where I don’t even have to think about it, but just go and hit a field goal, hit a punt and hit a kickoff and not have any problems at all.”
And did he gain any weight?
“A couple pounds,” MacLean answered. “Not too many – about 10 so that’s not a bad amount.”
Like everyone else in camp, both will be working to get better in preparation for the opening of the OUA season.
“I’ve just got to keep my legs fresh and keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Ferraro said. “I’ve been going since January now so it’s just easing into the season now and getting used to the snappers and the holders and all that kind of stuff.”
“I just have to get my head right to the point where I do everything the exact same way every single time,” MacLean said. “Once I do that I’m going to be totally consistent and that’s the main thing as a kicker. You just have to be consistent and do the things that you’ve trained for and you have to do them every single time the same way.”
While both have worked with Hank Ilesic, the former all-star CFL kicker who was the Gryphon kicking coach in Gabe’s first season, neither knew each other before the Gryphons started to recruit MacLean.
“I just met him through the recruiting process, but the kicking coach he works with I used to work with when I was in my first year at Guelph,” Ferraro said.
For MacLean, he figures he’s got it pretty good as a teammate to Ferraro who was an OUA and CIS all-star in 2015.
“It’s awesome,” MacLean said. “He’s going to be like a best friend for me. He’s going to be there to mentor me and get me through the season. If I’m feeling a certain way about kicks, he’s going to be there for reassurance and stuff. He’s just a good guy to have around to make sure I’m doing things right and I get to see him and see what he’s done for four years now and see how much of a professional he is on the field and off the field. It’s going to be good for me to develop as an athlete, as a kicker, as a punter and all that.”
While they are in competition for the starting job, it won’t be a cut-throat affair as both know they can work together and each can improve.
“The team comes first,” MacLean said. “We care about who’s going to help the team succeed more and we’re not looking at it as enemies. We’re looking at it as more let’s help each other get better and grow as players.”
And both were happy just to be back on the field.
“It’s awesome,” Ferraro said. “I love putting the helmet back on, putting the shoulder pads back on. It’s been too long. I love it, the first day.
“I’ve been looking forward to this all year. Since last November I’ve been looking forward to this day.”