By Kaitlynn Nordal

For Rory Iron of Canoe Lake, Saskatchewan football is not just a pass time it is a way of life.

Iron, a 17-year-old defensive back, has had an interest in football since he was a child and his family introduced him to the sport. After playing all through middle and high school, Iron is officially in his first year with the Regina Thunder in the Canadian Junior Football League (CJFL). The season may have started not too long ago, but Iron is feeling confident about it and it is living up to his expectations.

“(The season) is going really good. Practices have been a really good learning experience, and I learned a whole lot more in these couple months than I’ve ever learned before,” said Iron.

One of the biggest adjustments Iron has had to deal with is simply going from high school to CJFL level football with how different they are.

“(I’ve been) learning how to play the game within the game and sticking through the hard times because at the next level it is more grueling and physically demanding than it was in high school. I’m glad to have had this experience” said Iron.

Matt Rumpel, the defensive back coach, for the Regina Thunder, noticed Iron’s athletic ability the first time he saw him play.

“When I saw him at the winter camps and the offseason, I noticed right away his athletic ability and his speed which made you go ‘okay this is pretty impressive for a kid coming out of high school,” he said.

Photo credit: Wanda Harron Photography

Rumpel also feels Iron fits right in with the rest of his teammates and works hard at everything he does.

“He’s bought into our culture and bought into the program,” said Rumpel. “He’s one of the first kids out for practice one of the first kids at the meetings and its really nice to see a young guy take that approach to junior football.”

Iron’s older brother Damon also plays for the Regina Thunder. Although there is not much sibling rivalry between the two of them, they sometimes trash talk to each other he said.

The Iron brothers are the first from Canoe Lake to play football at this level and that is something Rory takes seriously.

“It feels really good to be a role model for the kids in Candle Lake,” said Iron. “I got a cousin up there in Candle Lake who plays football too and I know he looks up to me and he asks me for help sometimes on his football game and how to improve. It feels really good to know that I’m a role model to some people.”

Jonathan Iron, his father, also feels a sense of accomplishment watching his sons knowing they are the first to play at this level.

“(I feel a sense of) pride obviously. I think where that comes from is just knowing everything they have done and their perseverance. Even with Rory starting with their practice roster it’s going to teach him to keep working and persevere and one day he’ll get to where he wants to be.” said Jonathan

Although he has been playing for six years now Iron knows he will never be perfect and is always looking to improve his game.

“The one thing I want to improve on is just my overall athletic ability so that comes next year when some of the other guys leave, we can have a rookie from this year going into next year who is able to fill those spots and play well,” said Iron.

Iron has been working on adapting a certain lifestyle to ensure this comes to fruition.

“It’s all about developing a certain lifestyle,” he said. “You cannot be having a bad diet, not train or not taking care of your body. It’s a hard lifestyle to do because you have to eat right, you gotta train properly, but that’s what it takes to win year in and year out.”

With only two months left in the season, all three of them are feeling confident about how the season will end. Iron hopes his team can work hard enough to go to and win the CJFL championship game in November.

“For the rest of the season, I just hope he can learn the system, learn our program better and just improve for next year. It’s a five-year thing so it doesn’t happen all in one year. So, he just has to keep progressing and keep getting better.” said Rumpel.

Jonathan Iron also hopes his sons get to see the championship game.

“We hope they are successful, and the Thunder get to win the championship. For Rory there is always the hope that he will get to dress and play this year,” he said.

Rumpel hopes Iron sticks around for the full five years and they can work on Iron’s athletic ability together.

“For the future, I just hope he improves sticks around for five years and we can work him into a starting spot,” he said.