If receiver Thomas Bresciani had been born a few days earlier, he wouldn’t be playing for the Gryphons this year.
There’s a U Sports rule that states that any player who turns 25 before Sept. 1 is ineligible to play. Bresciani will turn 25 on Sept. 5.
That makes him the oldest player on the Gryphon roster and, of course, brings with it nicknames from his younger teammates.
“Pops or Dad,” he says are the most common ones. “There are a lot of jokes like I’ve been in my fifth year for five years or things like that, but I enjoy it. I take it more as a leadership role and that they look up to me. If they didn’t really like me, they wouldn’t make that joke.”
Although he’s only entering his third season with the Gryphons, he knows it’ll be his last. After high school in Weyburn, Sask., Bresciani played in the Canadian Junior Football League with the Regina Thunder of the Prairie Football Conference before joining the Gryphons.
“It’s more a bittersweet thing,” he says of entering his final season of Canadian university football. “My last season of junior was my last season, but I knew there was opportunity for more whereas this year the next step is kind of the CFL and based on my gauging, that’s not a possibility right now. So it’s bittersweet. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into post-season football so knowing that every day is kind of your last of said day, but I’m 24 turning 25 and I’m still out here. I still feel young and I’m still youthful at my age and doing things I love.”
Bresciani spent a little extra time during the off-season to get ready for this OUA football season.
“I just put a lot of time in knowing that a lot of our young guys are very athletic and they’re very talented,” he says. “I just put my time in in the gym. I’d work out on my own in the mornings and come see (strength and conditioning coach) Shea (Pierre) in the evenings. I really just tried to make myself feel 18 so I didn’t have that excuse that you’re older than these kids -- you’re starting to get old, basically. I just tried to make myself feel young again.”
Staying around Guelph during the off-season was nothing new for Bresciani as he’d done the same between his first and second years and he was also here a few months before his first training camp with the Gryphons. In other words, he was All In.
“When I first committed to Guelph, I moved that June and I’ve stayed ever since – only a couple of trips home either at Christmas or a couple of weeks (in the off-season).”
While Bresciani hasn’t set any definitive goals for the upcoming season, something he usually does, he has decided that he’ll aim to be his best every play.
“I do set goals but I wasn’t sure about my goals this year because I had very high expectations last year and I didn’t fulfill them,” he says. “I think this year it’s just to leave it all on the field.”
Last season was frustrating for Bresciani as he suited up for all eight league games, but didn’t have a reception. In 2016, his first season in Guelph, Bresciani caught 21 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns.
“I really put an expectation going into this season that if I am going to come back, I’m going to leave it all behind and not have any regrets with it,” he says. “I guess my goal this year is just to leave it all on the field and not look back and think ‘I could’ve done this and I could’ve done that,’ and really be a leader for these kids. This is a very young football team and there’s a lot of talent on the team and if I can rub off on some of the guys, whether it’s work ethic or film studies and things of that nature, anything I can help this team with in the future, that would be a good season for myself.”
This year’s Gryphon training camp went well for Bresciani.
“I was very impressed with my abilities every day,” he says. “I really tried to feel 18 and I put a lot of time into my body outside of practice and I felt like I came in every day feeling new and fresh and not as if I just came off a four-hour practice the day before. I feel like I really did a good job helping our offence move forward to get ready for Laval and hopefully move us forward again for Mac.”
That game against Laval, though, didn’t go well for the Gryphons as they suffered a 46-3 setback.
“We expected a tough competition, that’s why we went to Laval,” Bresciani says. “That was the big reason we went there. We wanted to see where we were competing against the best in the nation and how ready we were for that kind of opponent. Now looking back on that, we can’t really dwell on it too much. We’ve just got to learn from our mistakes, understand the level of competition that they play at and bring that to practice every day and move forward for Mac. I think playing Laval really prepped us for Mac this week and it’ll give us a really good chance to kick-start our season.”
However, that game against McMaster is at their Ron Joyce Stadium in Hamilton, a place the Gryphons haven’t had much success at lately. They haven’t been victorious there since winning a playoff game there in 2007.
“We don’t really think about those kind of things,” Bresciani says. “Our big focus is one game at a time and kind of one play at a time so we don’t really think about all those extra things. We just focus on the task ahead and do our jobs.”
If you drop by a Gryphon practice and see Bresciani running lengths of the Alumni Stadium field after practice has finished and players have headed for the locker room, it hasn’t been a good practice for him.
“We do have a team rule if you drop a ball, we do what we call Pay the Bank,” he says. “You do 10 push-ups, but at my age and experience, I don’t expect to drop balls, especially if it hits my hands or if I have an opportunity to catch it. I want to set the expectations high for that and be a leader and show the young guys that every ball is catchable.”
It’s one length of the field for every dropped ball at practice. This night he did four lengths.
“Today was tough,” he says. “There was a lot of install that we ran and a lot of the same play working on things, seeing different defences. When you run the same route against the same guys so many times, you run out of tools in your toolbox so that makes it a little tougher. It wasn’t a good day personally, but you run your 110 yards and move on to the next day.”
Looking back at his first two seasons with the Gryphons, Bresciani lists a couple of plays in a home win over the Queen’s Gaels as memorable.
“There’ve been a lot of good plays on this field,” he says. “There was a simple play late in the (Queen’s) game where I ran a quick out on the 40-yard line right by our bench where I made a catch and stayed in bounds which allowed the clock to run down. That or a touchdown late in the third quarter against Queen’s on a corner route to put us up, kind of that nail-in-the-coffin type touchdown. I think every play is kind of special. It’s hard to pick one.”
However, nothing he does in any game will top a moment he had on the Alumni Stadium field right after the Gryphons’ final home game of last season when he proposed to his girlfriend.
“That was pretty special. That was a very special moment, something that I think Brittany and I will never forget. We knew our time in Guelph was going to be limited,” he says. “It kind of tied our time in Guelph and that part of our life and our relationship in Guelph so that when we go back to Saskatchewan we’ll have something to look back on outside of football. It’s something that we can look back on and share.”