Running back Patrick Pierre should serve as a great example for the players who are currently on the Gryphons’ scout team.
He was one of them last year and began this season as the starting running back.
The scout team are the players who usually don’t play in the games, but they’re there every practice trying to behave the way the Gryphons’ next opponent will act on the field. They’re usually third, fourth or even fifth on the depth chart for their position.
“I just want to thank God, honestly, because last year I was in a position where I was taking every rep on scout,” Pierre said after a practice session this week. “This year, over the summer I stayed and I put in work. I was talking to coach KMac (head coach Kevin MacNeill) and he was telling me a lot of guys weren’t coming back and that I had an opportunity for the first-string spot.”
Pierre was already working hard to try to improve his position and his physique.
“I worked over the summer, attended my yoga classes and my Pilates classes every week,” he said. “I was doing my Johnny. I was getting my Johnny on.”
Gryphon slotback Johnny Augustine works hard at keeping fit and trim and his move from running back to slotback was one of the things that opened the door for Pierre.
“I felt like I had to work on my body a little more to handle the pounding I’m going to take this season,” Pierre said. “I was really surprised when I walked into the locker room and I looked at the depth chart and I saw that I was first team. I was shocked because I didn’t expect it to be so soon. I thought it was going to take me at least a few years to get there.
“Now I’m there and I just have to work even harder to stay there.”
For Pierre, moving up the depth chart wasn’t just a physical thing.
“I feel like it’s your mentality, too, because some guys they realize that they’re on scout and they just give up,” he said. “Honestly, I had a strong why and that’s the reason I was able to do it.”
Pierre’s “why” was a pretty simple one.
“My why was that I wanted to dress. I didn’t like the way it felt when I sat on the sidelines and watched all my boys play,” he said. “Everybody was asking me questions and asking me what my number is and who I am and I couldn’t answer them back. That was my why. I had a strong why and decided that, well, I’m not going to sit here any more and ever since then I dressed all the home games last year even though I was scout. The biggest thing if you are on scout team right now is have a strong why. That will help you a lot to take it to a whole new level.”
Last year the Gryphons dressed two scout players each home game as a reward for their hard work and to provide motivation to the scout team to continue the hard work. During the regular season, OUA teams can dress as many as 55 players for home games and 47 for road games.
Pierre suited up in three home games and finished the season with nine carries for 35 yards. But he didn’t lose sight of being a member of the scout team and his purpose of preparing the starters for the next game.
“I gave a pretty good look for the teams that we’re going up against like Ottawa and Western,” he said. “Scout team is really important because at the end of the day we need someone to run our plays against. We need something that’s going to seem familiar in a game to get us ready as much as we can. Scout team is definitely, hands down, one of the most useful parts of the team.”
In his first start in this season’s opener against the Ottawa Gee-Gees, Pierre had 26 carries for an even 100 yards.
“I was so shocked I had 26 carries,” he said. “That was a lot. After the game my body felt like crap. I had a bunch of cuts and blisters all over me and I didn’t feel too good. I took an ice bath as soon as I could.”
Gryphons had seven 100-yard rushing games last season -- three by Augustine, two by Daniel Palmer-Salmon and one apiece by Mack Jones and Brandon Gordon. Neither Palmer-Salmon nor Jones is back this year.
“I’m just happy I got my first 100,” Pierre said. “Honestly, I felt like I could’ve done a lot better. I have a lot to improve on in terms of my reads and everything. When I was watching the film, I felt I left yards out there and I could’ve been a bit more physical. I was really excited to get it.”
But getting the start and a 100-yard game allowed Pierre to cross a couple of things of his list of goals.
“I have a set of goals and achieved 100 and I want to keep it rolling and keep it rolling -- all of us, not just me,” he said. “I just want the whole RB group to get 100s. Whenever we’re in, whoever it is, I just feel like we have to dominate as an RB group throughout the whole OUA.”
Looking ahead to a game against the Western Mustangs Monday night at London, Pierre knows he and the Gryphons have things to work on and things that need to be cleaned up.
“We’ve got to stop the penalties,” he said. “Last year when we played them we had a lot of penalties and we ended up losing. We’ve just got to be physical. We were really physical against Ottawa, but we didn’t end up on top. We’ve got to cut out the penalties and be very physical against them.
“I have to be a lot more physical, just running downhill and doing a better job of my reads for outside zones, inside zones and slowing things down. This week, one thing I really focused on was just being more physical and doing better on reads and slowing things down for this game.”
Next home game for the Gryphons is a Sept. 9 clash with the Windsor Lancers. Game time at Alumni Stadium is 1 p.m.