Guelph native Brandon Ferigo is making the most of his chance to start for the Guelph Gryphons in Ontario University Athletics football.
“I really enjoyed getting in on all special teams the previous year, but what every player really wants is to start at his position,” the middle linebacker said. “For me it was a long time coming so I was super happy when I learned that I was starting and then I actually started to do pretty good at it so I was really happy about that.”
Ferigo is in his fifth year at the University of Guelph and in his fourth year of eligibility with the team as he redshirted (he practised with the team, but didn’t play) his first year.
The Gryphons take on the McMaster Marauders Friday night in a 6 p.m. start at Alumni Stadium.
“Playing for the University of Guelph was always a dream of mine ever since I started playing senior varsity and (the Guelph Minor Football Association) switched from the Guelph Bears to the Guelph Junior Gryphons. I was always around in that environment.
“Coach Brian Cluff, who's now retired, he brought me and my buddy Tavius (Robinson), who everybody knows is at Ole Miss, he brought us out to training camp so we were involved in the training camps helping out with that,” Ferigo said. “I was a ball boy at the games. Gryphon football is something that was always a part of me and I had always dreamed of playing Gryphon football.”
Through five games this season, Ferigo leads the team with 24 solo tackles and 20 assisted tackles for a total of 34 tackles. His average of 6.8 tackles per game is third best in the league.
“It was obviously disappointing that it took as long as it did for me to start and to actually play, but I knew I just had to stick around and really keep working and keep my head down and keep grinding and I would eventually get in the position I wanted to be in,” he said. “It did finally come so I was really happy that my dream was finally realized.”
Prior to this season, Ferigo’s career stats were one tackle, a sack for a loss of seven yards, in eight games.
Ferigo has played football from the earliest ago group he could. That included five years at Guelph CVI in the local District 10 high school league as well as spring football in the GMFA system.
“My first three years at GC I played defensive end which is what I played for the majority of my football career,” he said. “In Grade 12 they moved me to middle linebacker and I played that for 12 and 12-plus.”
He also lines up as a running back on offence.
“I played both ways and on all special teams. I never really left the field,” he said.
By becoming a middle linebacker with the Gryphons, he becomes the third GCVI graduate to hold the position in the last decade or so as the Reinharts, Jake and Job, were also middle linebackers.
Unlike the Reinharts and fellow GCVI graduate Simon Chaves who started the season as a defensive back for the Gryphs before suffering a season-ending injury in the opening game, Ferigo has never been a long snapper.
“I tried to long snap, but I just couldn't do it,” he said. “The coaches always preached to us coming in that the best thing for a linebacker to learn was to learn to long snap because that gives you the fastest chance to dress and get on the field. I tried. I went to a camp to try to learn it, but I just couldn't get the skills down so I just kind of gave up on that one.”
The thing the Reinharts and Chaves had in their background that Ferigo didn’t was that they had been quarterbacks at GCVI.
“I was never a quarterback,” Ferigo said. “A lot of the motion is sort of the same so they get the right spiral and everything. I just couldn't get it to spiral. I had the strength to launch it all the way back to the punter, but it was coming in all floppy so it wasn't really any good.”
Playing a varsity sport at university is almost like holding down a full-time job due to the large time commitment. That can lead to developing lifelong friendships with your teammates.
“The brotherhood that it creates is something that is quite special that I feel a lot of other sports don't have just because of how much time we actually do spend together,” Ferigo said. “We do spend (time together) playing a sport that we all love and it just creates a bond that I think other sports just can't compare to.”
The bond can also be formed due to how every player has to rely on his teammates to perform.
“I just love the dynamics of football and how every person has to do their job and if one person makes a mistake it can all just quickly fall to pieces,” Ferigo said. “I just feel like there's no other sport where you have to be so on the same page as your teammates in order to accomplish the goal that you're going for. I just find that's something special about football.”