A pair of Mission gridiron greats are changing their feathers come September.
Offensive standouts Kevin Wiens and Hyatt Smith are taking their game to the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds after signing letters of intent recently.
Both players contemplated a number of options, including heading to Kingston, Ont. to play for the Golden Gales at Queens University and taking the NCAA route through Simon Fraser, but settled on UBC after lengthy consideration.
The pair said continuing to be able to play together after their success in Mission was one of the leading factors in making the choice.
“It’s going to be great heading to school with Kevin,” said Smith. “I think it will make the transition easier and I can’t wait to get going.”
Smith, who played wide receiver for the Roadrunners, is coming of a torn ACL that cost him most of his senior year. After surgery in December, the focus has been on rehabbing his knee and hitting the books. While football has a storied tradition at UBC, academics always come first. That was also a leading factor in where the two decided to continue their education.
“It was definitely a combination of athletics and being able to get a great education,” said Smith. “I was really impressed with the campus.”
While Smith works his way back to health — doctors estimate he’ll be healed up by June — Wiens has been working on his game south of the border.
He joined the top provincial football prospects on Team B.C. for a road trip in early January to Texas for two exhibition games. Team B.C. faced a squad of European all-stars and a highly anticipated match against the U.S.
Wiens, who along with Smith won back-to-back provincial titles in Grades 10 and 11, said while Team B.C. was confident going into the game against their European counterparts, the same can’t be said when they were lining up against the Americans.
“Things went pretty much as we expected against Europe,” noted Wiens, who recorded an interception in Team BC’s 49-14 thrashing of the overseas’s team. “But when it was time to play against the States, you get a little bit worried.”
Wiens had every right to be nervous. Not only were they playing against the U.S., they were playing in the great state of Texas, where the only thing more popular than football is, well, more football. There are more than 1,300 high school football facilities in the Lone Star State, 10 of them seating 16,000-plus.
Playing in Texas, in his mind, was a completely different animal. That is, until the contest started.
“Once the game got underway, that nervousness went away. We played really well and showed we could compete,” said Wiens.
So much so that Team BC completed its own proverbial football clinic, trouncing their American counterparts 38-18.
“It’s a huge boost of confidence,” said Wiens, who helped lead his team to the provincial finals in 2012, losing to South Delta 31-14.
The success of both players is no surprise to Roadrunners head coach Kevin Watrin. He said the pair put in the hard work needed to take their game to the next level, both on the field and in the classroom. With long days of travel on game days, school work has to fit into the schedule when it can. He said their success is shared with the team’s coaching staff and the commitment of teachers who put in the extra time helping student athletes meet their educational goals.
“This confirms what we preach at the school,” said Watrin. “We want to win on the field but we strive for success in the classroom. It’s testament to all the hard work by the boys and the teachers who give up their time to make sure students succeed academically as well.”