Playing any sport for your hometown university has got to be a thrill and it’s a thrill that running back Teo Jean-Gaston hopes to experience soon.
“Honestly, I’ve grown up in Guelph and I’ve always played ball here and I want to represent the town I grew up in and the town that made me who I am,” he said after playing a District 10 high school game for the Ross Royals at the University of Guelph's Alumni Stadium. “That’s the decision I made, to stay local.”
Born and raised in Guelph, Jean-Gaston started playing football when he was in elementary school as he wanted to follow older brother Brian into the sport. Brian had been enticed to play football by one of his teachers, Bill Brown, who is a former Gryphon and a member of the university team’s coaching staff at that time. Brown is still involved with the Gryphons.
As for Teo, he and two younger brothers – Niko and Manny – are teammates on the Ross Royals, a team that has rebounded from a winless, out-of-the-playoffs season a year ago into being a legitimate contender this year.
Teo also played in the Guelph Minor Football Association’s rep system for a few years until going to the Cambridge Lions last year when the GMFA didn’t field a varsity team in summer ball.
He could be back playing summer ball in Guelph next year as a preparation for his first training camp with the Gryphons.
“I want to come back home for my university life,” he said.
Teo also knows that university football will be at least a step up from the football he’s already played.
“The university game is going to be faster,” he said.
While he has played on the Alumni Stadium field several times, that won’t really be any advantage to him in his attempt to crack the Gryphons roster.
“The field won’t help too much, it’s more my physical ability and stuff like that,” he said.
What will help will be reporting to the Gryphon training camp next August in the best shape he can possibly be in and that will likely mean working out with what he hopes will be his new teammates.
“It’ll just be a lot of training getting my body in shape for the season coming up next year,” he said.
He’s also expecting the Gryphons to tell him what they need him to do, but he figures that won’t happen until the U Sports season is over.
“I’ll be getting filled in,” he said. “Right now they’re busy with their season, but I’m sure I will be getting filled in soon.”
The Gryphons will be hoping to attract more District 10 players into the fold next year after getting just one, kicker Nick Guardiero from the Bishop Macdonell Celtics, this year.
However, the team does have several other former Guelph high school players on its roster including linebacker/long snapper Job Reinhart, defensive lineman Tavius Robinson, defensive back Simon Chaves, offensive lineman Spencer Swan and linebacker Brandon Ferigo from the Guelph CVI Green Gaels and Guardiero, offensive lineman Connor Burke and defensive back Graham Brodie from the Bishop Macdonell Celtics.
Making the decision about university at this time of the school year is relatively early, but it’s a decision that Teo wanted out of the way.
“I just knew that this was the place where I wanted to be,” he said. “It’s (now) a lot easier for me to focus on what I need to do academically so that’s why I signed so early. I know what I need to achieve academically to be able to go to university next year.”
He plans on studying business commerce.
“I’m pretty good at math,” he said.
And how are his marks in high school?
“They’re good. They’re good enough for me to be going to university, I’ll put it that way,” he answered. “They can always be better for sure.”
And every new university student is told the same thing. The first year at university is always the hardest year.
“It’s just adjusting from high school to university,” he said.
And trying out for the Gryphons will be a tough thing, too.
“Everyone there is an athlete because they wouldn’t be there if they weren’t crazy athletic so the game speed is going to be a lot quicker,” he said. “I’ll have to adjust to that and everyone being just as athletic as I am. It becomes more of a mental game when you get to university.
“Obviously it’s going to be a challenge, but I’m sure I can hold myself down and grind through it.”