Kickin' it with CFLer Alexis Sanschagrin
Gazette File Photo
By Ryan Hickman
This fall is the first time in four years that the Western Mustangs football team's defensive backfield has not been anchored by the lanky and hard hitting Alexis Sanschagrin.
The former Mustang is now flying around the turf of the SkyDome with the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League. The Gazette caught up with Sanschagrin to shoot the shit about his new career and what's going on with life in the pros.
Sanschagrin had always made it a goal to play professional football. Now that he's in the CFL, Western's former safety said he has the best job he can imagine because he doesn't have to go to an office and because playing football is the thing he is most passionate about.
When we started talking about the differences between the university and pro game, Sanschagrin immediately pointed to the mental obstacles over the physical hardships.
"It's a lot more mental than physical with the Argos," Sanschagrin said. "Practices are physically harder at Western. They expect the fundamentals from you at [the pro] level. You already know how to tackle and the basic things, but it is the schemes and the amount of stuff that you have to remember."
Sanschagrin noted the amount of time a professional team spends watching film of not only other teams, but also of themselves. He outlined an average day as watching film in the afternoon for two hours, followed by an on-field practice that is entirely taped and looked over for an additional half hour after practice. There are two people for the Argos that snip and splice tape all day to provide visual aids from every possible angle.
Sanschagrin talked about the different styles of artificial turf in TD Waterhouse Stadium and the SkyDome. The carpet at the SkyDome has seams all over the field because of its need to be morphed from a football field to a baseball diamond. He said he prefers the confines of Western's home field, although he added, "turf is turf."
As a four-year starter at Western, Sanschagrin was the anchor of the defensive secondary, earning an OUA all-star selection in both the 2000 and 2001 seasons. He was selected as the 30th overall pick in last year's CFL college draft by the Argos.
The Gazette asked Sanschagrin what his relationship has been with former Mustangs Roger Dunbrack and Jude St. John who are now his teammates with the Argos. He said they looked out for him, especially during training camp when he was still getting his feet wet and stressed the Western bond.
"The Western thing really carries on and there is definitely a tie between us because we played at the same school," he said.
Sanschagrin also talked about the relationship within a team that has a wide range of players that have followed different paths to the CFL. Teammates of his, like Michael Bishop and Martavius Houston who played at prolific American colleges and had their own stints in the NFL, are just normal guys with a little bit more money, he said.
"They are the same kind of people who like to hang out and play X-box and PlayStation," he added.
Sanschagrin does concede that he has more in common with players from Ontario, like fellow rookies Matt McKnight and Chuck Walsh, who played at Waterloo.
"The guys from the OUA we can relate to each other more than someone who went to college at Tennessee or Alabama," he explained.
As a first-year player, the former Mustangs veteran hasn't caught too much flack as a rookie, although his name was spelled incorrectly on the back of his jersey in a pre-season game at home.