Graduating Gryphon offensive lineman Kyle Fraser-Audit is ready for his next football challenge.
About 10 days before Christmas Fraser-Audit signed with the Ottawa RedBlacks, the team that selected him in the sixth round, 45th overall, of last year's CFL draft.
"It feels really good. It's kind of a relief," Fraser-Audit said before starting a workout session in the weight room upstairs at Alumni Stadium. "I know they mentioned they would want me back if I had a pretty good season and I think I did. It's always a relief that I'm back and it feels good."
The 6-foot-3, 290-pound Fraser-Audit attended Ottawa's training camp last year and suited up for both of the team's preseason games before being sent back to the Gryphons for his fifth and final year on Canadian university football. Now he's getting ready for his second training camp this spring.
"I'm just training right now," he said. "I'm just trying to get bigger and stronger and faster and also there's a lot of getting mentally prepared. I found that's a big step up in the game because everybody's that around is equally strong and as fit so it's just more of the mental state -- who's got more of a mental grasp on the game."
While a lot of time at the University of Guelph went to football, there was also schoolwork so football wasn't the total focus. That will change in the next step.
"It's 100 per cent a job," Fraser-Audit said. "I think that's where I kind of didn't realize that so much. Now it's a job. Guys are playing it for the love of the game still, which is awesome, but it's how some guys provide for their family which I struggled to recognize at first."
In a way, he went to school at Ottawa's camp.
"You name it and I probably learned it or ended up coming into contact with it real quick," he said. "Everything from mental focus to on-field smarts. Everything is just one step faster so it's kind of learning everything all over again at a faster pace."
That training camp with the RedBlacks paid dividends for Fraser-Audit when he took to the field in OUA play last fall.
"The game slowed down a lot for me when I was here which was great," he said. "I didn't need to think as much on the field. I just let my athletic ability come into play."
While Fraser-Audit figures he has one semester to go before he graduates with a classical studies honours degree, he wasn't always serious about his schoolwork.
"At first, it was 'Sweet, I can play football.' But then you come to realize that football doesn't last forever so around my third year I kind of decided I should crack down and focus more on school and it's been great," he said. "School's been great and the marks are up there."
And you have to have the marks or you don't play. Fraser-Audit found that out before he ever got to the Guelph campus.
"I had to actually go back in high school for a year for that -- to get my marks up. I learned real quick."
Not surprisingly, the Yates Cup win in 2015 rates as one of the favourite moments of his time with the Gryphons.
"Also just how great the coaching staff and the players are here," he said. "That's another big thing and why I chose Guelph. That stood out a lot. It's a family school, family community. That stood out a lot for me."
Athletes often keep in touch with more teammates from their university days than from any other time in their playing careers.
"I think I have two friends back from high school that I still talk to and the rest are these guys," Fraser-Audit said. "You kind of move on in a sense. Not in a bad way, but you get new friends. You more realistically become brothers because you're with each other during the season close to 24 to 30 hours a week, maybe more. You're just so close that you build that brotherly bond and that's awesome. I just love it."
Fraser-Audit does have advice for any player thinking of coming to Guelph to play for the Gryphons.
"Make sure you get in your play book and make sure you hit the weight room before you get in here because guys are a lot stronger and bigger and faster than you," he said. "Even if you are bigger, just being that big isn't going to work anymore. That's what happened with me my first year. I was stronger and I could keep up with the fifth-year guys with my strength, but my mental game was a little off.
"That's another great piece of advice, too. If the coaches let you get in here and get the play book early, sit down with whoever your coordinator is and try to go over the plays. That way by training camp you don't have a head start, but you're even with the guys and have a shot to make the dress roster, no matter whether that's specials, offence or defence."
And getting in some offseason training with your future Gryphon teammates helps, too. A lot of players, including those getting ready for their first season in Guelph, attend the summer sessions put on by the players.
"That's where it all starts," Fraser-Audit said. "I found that all the guys who came to train from once a week to four days a week, you do get to know the incoming freshmen quicker and you build that bond just starting from there. Then they're not a new face when they come to camp. It's good for nerves, too. You're not nervous walking in Day 1 because you don't know anybody."