In one way this year’s Gryphon training camp feels the same as his very first five years ago for offensive lineman Eric Starczala.
A draft pick of the Toronto Argos last spring, Starczala reported to this year’s Gryphon camp at the exact same weight he reported at for his first Gryphon camp.
“I lost a lot of weight,” he said. “I’m down from 335 (pounds) to about 280 right now. I knew we were going to be running a lot more and we needed to be in shape. We all want it all so we all came in in shape.
“I feel amazing – better than I ever had.”
Starczala was a seventh-round pick of the Argos as they selected him 62nd overall and he did attend their training camp.
“It was really good,” he said. “Honestly, the way we are running things here are very similar to the way the Argos did it. Very similar.”
As is usual with all players attending their first CFL training camp straight out of university football, Starczala did notice the main difference.
“It’s definitely a different game at the next level. I’d say the jump from high school to university is a lot greater than the jump from university to the CFL physically, but mentally it’s a lot harder to go into the CFL.”
And there isn’t as much of the personal touch that players get in university.
“You’re treated more like a business and no one gets on your rear if you mess up,” he said. “It’s more on you. If you don’t fix it, they’ll just get rid of you.”
This year’s Gryphon camp is also a little different than the Gryphon camps of the last five or six years as they’ve reverted back to working out on the Alumni Stadium field twice a day for two to two and a half hours each time rather than one long four-hour session with a small break after two hours.
“It’s a little different. We’re doing two-a-days instead of power practices and I think everyone kind of likes it,” Starczala said. “We get a little more time to recover in between so we’re not as sore going into the second half of practices. It’s going pretty well.”
During the summer as training camp neared, every player experienced a case of nerves as they couldn’t wait to get on the field for real.
“(I was) extremely anxious,” Starczala said. “Training is fun and all, but it’s different when you actually get to go on the field. You know you’re prepared and you’re ready to compete.”
Now that the season opener against the McMaster Marauders is getting near, the Gryphons are getting closer to being the team they want to be during OUA play. But there is still work to be done.
“We’ve got to get in the playbook,” Starczala said. “We had a couple of mistakes today. Not many, but we’ve got to be perfect come game time.
“It happens every year and it normally gets better and better as the days go on. Today was a really good day, just a couple of mistakes we need to clean up. That’s it.”
The Gryphons and McMaster are to tangle Sunday at Alumni Stadium. Game time is 1 p.m.