Defensive back Orion Edwards is grateful to be back on the field for his fifth and final year of eligibility with the Gryphons.
“It feels awesome to be back here,” Edwards, who also serves as the team’s chaplain, said following the second on-field session of training camp. “I’m thankful for that every single day to step on the field and just going out and putting all that hard work into practice. Hopefully it’s going to translate right into the game.”
While this is the fifth training camp for Edwards, it’s the fourth he’s participated in as he didn’t don the equipment last year due to suffering a knee injury at the U Sports East-West Bowl during the off-season that kept him sidelined the entire season.
“I was here but I wasn’t playing,” he said.
Actually, he was pretty active during camp and at practices, delivering water and keeping involved. He’s not the type of person who can just sit and watch others play. He has to be involved in some way which makes getting back on the field that much better for him.
“The knee is doing very well. I feel better than I did before,” he said. “I’ve been in the tubs and everything. I feel back to normal.”
He’s also a little lighter than before after a little more tinkering with an already strict diet and hired a nutritionist.
“I probably dropped about 10 pounds this off-season,” Edwards said. “I retained my strength and got even stronger in some lifts as well. I got faster.”
While Edwards lived and worked in Guelph during the off-season and attended the players-run Sunday training sessions at Alumni Stadium, he trained regularly in a facility in Mississauga.
“I felt that helped me a lot as well and it just changed my mentality completely.”
And he’s got a nightly routine that is designed to keep him on the field.
“I’ve been doing a lot of flexibility, a lot of stretching at night to make sure that I’m ready for the day -- my hips, my glutes, make sure all that stuff is firing well.”
Edwards has noticed a bit of a difference at camp this year.
“We have a new offensive coordinator and it’s our second year with coach (Adam) Grandy as the defensive coordinator so I think everyone is kind of getting used to that dynamic as well. Although we have different coaches, we still have to go very high tempo. Our camps have always been high tempo, but I think there’s a little bit more focus on this camp as well.”
The Gryphon defence does have a pair of new coaches with the addition of Mark Forsyth to work with the defensive backs and Joe Sardo to work with the linebackers. And there is a lot of first-year players in camp as the majority of the team’s recruits are on the field.
“We as older guys need to help the younger guys maintain focus and we have to make them understand that you don’t just hop on the bus and ride it. You have to help us build this program, help us build this defence and improve it yourself as well,” Edwards said. “I think everyone’s taking more accountability for that and accountability for the guys who are backing them up and making sure they know their job as much as they do.”
That’s not really anything new, though. As the players progress through their time in OUA football, they go from being the student to being one of the teachers.
As camp proceeds, Edwards knows he has to bump his game up even more.
“I need to start making some plays on balls,” he said. “I need to not just be locked down, but be able to change the momentum of the game and to get us off the field and the offence back on.”
He’ll be looking to get back or exceed the form he had in 2015 when he was involved in 19 tackles, forced a fumble and broke up five plays in eight games.
The Gryphons are to hold their intersquad game Monday morning, play the St. Francis Xavier X-Men and Mount Allison Mounties in exhibition action in Nova Scotia next Saturday and host the Ottawa Gee-Gees in their OUA season open