For Tavius Robinson, the winner of the all-Guelph District 10 high school football league’s Nick FitzGibbon Award, August and the start of the Gryphons’ training camp is just too far off.
“I’ve been training about six days a week, eating good and just focusing on getting ready and prepared for the university season to start,” the Guelph CVI Green Gaels all-star linebacker said after accepting The Fitzy during an awards luncheon at the Gryphons’ football pavilion. I can’t wait for it to start.”
The Fitzy is awarded annually to the most outstanding player in D10 football who also has the potential to go on in the sport.
“It means a lot,” Robinson said. “It’s a really honourable award and I’m happy to receive it. It’s good to know the hard work paid off.”
“I think The Fitzy is the most prestigious award in District 10 because it’s more than just being a great player,” GCVI coach Blair Rickers said. “It’s being a leader on and off the field. It’s being a true student athlete. It’s being someone that the younger guys on the team can look up to and say ‘That’s what I aspire to be.’”
Robinson fit the bill in all those categories and he’s to stay in his hometown as he has committed to attending the University of Guelph and playing football with the Gryphons starting this fall.
“The coaches have been very welcoming to me since about Grade 9,” he said. “They’ve had me out at the field and they’ve shown me how things are run here. The academics are also very well here. I want to take landscape architecture. It’s the academics and the great football tradition here.”
Robinson is to play football at the school where his uncle played as a defensive back in 1981 and 1982 before being drafted in the second round of the CFL draft, 11th overall by the Ottawa Rough Riders. He would go on to play for six teams in the CFL for a total of 10 seasons.
“He’s told me stories about his time here,” Tavius said.
Tavius was a big part of GCVI’s second consecutive league championship and he becomes the second consecutive Green Gaels player to win the award following quarterback Simon Chaves in 2016. Chaves red-shirted with the Gryphons last fall.
Former Fitzy winners to play for the Gryphons are 2013 winner defensive back Nick Paisotto of the Lourdes Crusades and 2011 winner defensive lineman Reza Shayani of the Ross Royals.
The win by Robinson also continues the trend of rotating the award between offensive and defensive players. Offensive players have won it in even-numbered years since its inception in 2010 and defensive players have won it in odd-numbered years.
As for the 6-foot-8, 235-pound Robinson, he’s hoping to add some weight prior to training camp.
“I’m going to keep training hard,” he said. “I want to put on a bit more weight, get up to about 250, but keep my speed. I’m excited to get started.”
St. James Lions players swept the offensive and defensive player of the year awards while the lineman and rookie awards went to Robinson’s teammates at GCVI.
Tanner Nelmes was the offensive player of the year.
“He is the most important player on our offence,” St. James coach Sean Cummings said. “We relied on him very heavily. His ability to run the ball opened up our passing game and he’s an excellent receiver himself. We gave him the ball on screen passes.
“Coaches had complete confidence in him, even when we were faced with something like a third-and-four, we had no problems giving Tanner the ball.
Older brother Brody Nelmes was the defensive player of the year.
“Like Tanner, Brody is the most important player on our defence,” Cummings said. “He has abilities that allow him to do anything on defence. He can cover, he can stop the run and he’s an exceptional pass rusher as well and that’s what we employed him to do a lot.
“Brody was one of the three returning starters on our defence so we were a bit inexperienced there and we counted on him very heavily. He was asked each week to take away the best player on the other team and that’s something that he took ownership in doing and he was the leader of our defence.”
Aaron Pacha was the lineman of the year.
A two-way lineman last fall, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Pacha embodies all the good of D10 football. The rivalries are heated, but they seldom boil over and the emotions are turned down at the final whistle.
“You see a lot of football games in general and there’s a lot of conflict between players and we didn’t get that here,” Pacha said. “If you look at District 10 football as a whole and you look at my experience with District 10 football, it’s just the fun I had and how accepting everyone has been. I came into high school in Grade 9 at 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds and I started playing offensive line. I got bullied, but if it hadn’t been for a select bunch of guys I looked up to, I wouldn’t be playing football right now. It’s because of them I got to this point.”
Rookie of the year was GCVI linebacker Enzo Njo.
“This young man has the opportunity to be a really outstanding player,” Rickers said. “He’s a real playmaker. He’s someone who’s really smart, really athletic and that’s a great combination to have. What the coaches love is that he’s really versatile. He played SAM linebacker for us, blitzed a bit, was great against the run and he covered some outstanding receivers.
“He was also on our punt team and his responsibility allegedly was to kind of help set up the wall and block, but every time it was a high, short punt he always seemed to get his hands on the ball.
A linebacker in his first season with the Green Gaels, he could eventually be moved to the offensive side of things as a running back.
“I think over the course of his career he’s going to get a chance to show off those skills,” Rickers said.