Offensive lineman Andy McFalls is hoping that the work he’s put in this winter will lead to a longer season this fall.
McFalls saw his rookie season come to a premature end early in September when he suffered a broken leg in practice.
“I probably fractured it in the Windsor game (at Alumni Stadium Sept. 9) and I broke it in the first practice back the Toronto week,” he said. “I was done for the year.”
Just prior to the Windsor game he was told he’d be a member of the Canadian national under-19 team that would be playing in the International Bowl series of games in Arlington, Tex. Add that to the Gryphons’ winter camp in Florida and McFalls feels as if he’s had time to shake some of the rust off.
“The football was great,” he said of the International Bowl. “I hadn’t played since September so it was just nice to get back to it.
“It just felt good to be able to play again. I was a little rusty the first few practices, but that was to be expected. Rehabbing, even while I still had the cast on, helped a lot. It just felt good to play again – kind of get your footwork and technique down again and start moving some muscles you hadn’t moved in a while felt nice.”
Despite the injury, the trip to Texas was never in jeopardy for McFalls as long as his recovery went well.
“I was told that as long as I was healthy, I was good to go. It healed pretty quick and I was excited to go,” he said. “Do the workouts and take every precaution you can to be able to heal and heal quickly was the big thing to go to Texas. If I didn’t go down there, knowing me myself, I probably wouldn’t have taken every precaution necessary. It gave me something to work toward.”
The International Bowl was played using U.S. football rules and the Canadian players had to adapt to that.
“The rules are different down there,” McFalls said. “It took a little bit of adjustment, but the first few practices you got rid of that. It was just all about playing football again and I love that.”
One of the biggest differences in the rules for an offensive lineman is the lack of space between the offensive and defensive lines. There’s a yard between them in the Canadian game, but that U.S. game sees the line of scrimmage as the only space between the opposing linemen.
“That’s huge for me especially because I’m not a super-strong offensive lineman,” McFalls said. “I’m not a strong offensive lineman at all. I like the yard just because I play a lot with my hands and with speed and that helps me a lot. Down there they don’t stunt as much as defensive linemen do up here because they don’t have that yard. The guys are big and long. I wouldn’t say they’re faster than the guys up here, but they play with a lot more extension and having them right on your nose when you line up takes a bit of getting used to but, for the most part, it’s just football.”
While the Canadian squad lost the match, McFalls returned with a renewed confidence in his game.
“The result wasn’t what we wanted. We lost 47-7, but it’s cool to be able to compete like that and with those (NCAA) D1 guys,” he said. “For me, it was a big confidence booster. The two guys I faced on the field were committed to Oklahoma State and Indiana."
“To be able to compete with that and not give up any sacks, it’s pretty cool. It boosts your confidence and it’s just something you can put in the back of your head. When you’re playing and you’re not having a good game, it’s like ‘I can compete with these D1 guys, why can’t I compete here?’ For me it’s a mental thing.”
The players also had to try not to be in awe about playing at AT&T Stadium, the home field for the Dallas Cowboys.
“You go down there, you’re playing where the Cowboys play,” McFalls said. “I think in the most part some of the guys were in awe of that still. The coach was trying to tell us just to play football, that sort of thing.
“For myself, I’d already been to the stadium. I hadn’t played football there, but I’d been so I wasn’t in awe as much as some of the other guys. But it’s pretty cool to play down there.”
He also got over that feeling of awe in that what the team had to do there was the same as it would have to do if it was playing at Alumni Stadium.
“I think it was out of my head right after warm-ups,” he said. “We went out for warm-ups and it’s ‘Holy crap, this is a big stadium.’ But you go back in the tunnel and you go back in the change room real quick and it’s game time. Here you line up, climb up the stairs and run out and it’s the same thing there.”