[Originally published in Swedish by Värmlands Folkblad]
Not long after Carlstad Crusaders linebacker Mattias Eriksson had won the 2017 Swedish championship with the Crusaders, he headed off to Canada and Wilfrid Laurier University to study for a semester and try out for the school’s football team. His plan was to battle for a roster spot.
According to Johan Ekberg of Värmlands Folkblad newspaper, he made it. In speaking with Ekberg, Eriksson explained:
“I am very proud that I succeeded,” he said after his debut for Laurier Golden Hawks in the Canadian University League.
Wilfrid Laurier University is located outside Toronto and plays in the Ontario University Athletics – OUA – conference of the Canadian University league and Eriksson was invited to attend training camp in August and get a chance to try out for the team.
Eriksson arrived in Canada on August 8th and two days later training camp started.
“It was hard – but fun. A lot of fun and at the same time a big challenge. It is, to some extent, a new sport so it was a change.”
Canadian football, although as old as American football, has its own rules and differs on key points from the American version.
“It’s a lot different. The field is bigger, you have twelve players instead of the eleven on each team and you have three downs instead of four. Then there are some other rules that differ as well. Actually, it’s a little strange, you see it from the side it looks exactly the same. But apparently it has its roots very far back.”
Eriksson has discovered some of the other key differences like all the backfield motion before the ball is snapped and the one yard off the line of scrimmage but he seems to have adjusted quickly enough. The team won its first game, beating the Toronto Varsity Blues 39-0.
“The coaches thought I was good enough to earn a spot for the game. I am very proud that I made it, but I have to work just as hard to earn a spot next week. I had the most playing time on special teams but at the end I was also playing on defense.”
The squad consists of just under 100 players and only 55 are on the gameday roster.
“So it’s big competition, but it’s the best way to develop.”
The next game for the Golden Hawks is against the Carleton Ravens at home on September 9 and by then Eriksson hopes to feel even more at home.
“I’m fine. It is not so different than Sweden. But I have not seen so much yet, it has mostly been training and football. But I will have to start studying soon and that will be another challenge finding the time for studies and football. But luckily, we do not practice as much now as during training camp. Now the key is keeping all the players ready for the games.”