No slowin' down for Mustangs'
Running back controls punishing
By Ian Van Den Hurk
BUT I'M STILL SENSITIVE. Mustangs running back Drew Soleyn
is known by teammates and opponents alike as the toughest
player on the Mustangs' football team.
Drew Soleyn is hella tough.
"Drew is probably our toughest guy," says Mustangs head coach Larry Haylor. "Pound for pound, ounce for ounce, he's as tough a football player as there is in Canadian Interuniversity Sport."
Mustangs wide receivers coach Paul Callahan echoes Haylor: "He's the toughest player I've ever coached."
Listening to the coaches speak, you might think they're describing a menacing, 250-lb. linebacker that eats nails for breakfast. You might be surprised to learn, however, they're talking about a 5'11", 202-lb. running back.
The 24-year-old Soleyn was born and raised in Toronto and although that's where his home is, he certainly has left his mark at Western. After graduating last year with a degree in kinesiology, Soleyn has returned for one more season of football and the Mustangs couldn't be happier.
Last season, Soleyn was one of the many dangerous weapons employed by the Mustangs. He finished second in Ontario University Athletics in rushing and was one of two players in the league to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark.
Despite his skills on the football field, Soleyn's first love in sports was baseball. Before coming to Western, Soleyn played a year of baseball in West Virginia. He recalls what his high school football coach at Richview Collegiate, Al Craige, told him while contemplating which sport to choose: "Football is your sport, go play football." But Soleyn rejected the idea and headed south. After a year of baseball and soul searching, Soleyn returned home and made his decision to trade in a baseball glove for a football helmet. He hasn't looked back.
"I've been blessed with the opportunity to play and be as successful as I've been - I'm extremely thankful for it," Soleyn says.
When Soleyn is on the field, he not only commands the respect of opponents, but also the respect of his coaches and teammates. Though Soleyn is more of a lead-by-example type, he can be a vocal leader when necessary. As teammate Christian Heffernan notes, "When Drew is really unhappy about something he'll let the team know. That's when you can really tell he's upset. Everybody listens to Drew when he talks."
When asked what he does best to make his team better, Soleyn doesn't list off the physical skills or abilities he possesses, instead he focuses on his leadership skills. "I would hope that my desire and intensity would be evident, the way I practice and play. I would hope that other guys would see that and maybe feed off that - they're not feeling the best or that great, but they see what I give and how hard I work."
Heffernan agrees. "Drew is probably the hardest worker on the team. His care and dedication [sets him apart]. He never takes plays off. He's a good role model for a lot of people."
There is one monkey left on Soleyn's back, however. "I'd love to beat Queen's" he explains. "I thought we would beat them last Saturday, but in the last ten minutes it slipped away." Soleyn still remembers a Mustangs-Gaels match-up from his second year. "We were 4-1 and they were 0-5. They came in and still beat us. It was a huge upset."
Soleyn takes football one game at a time, but he has put some thought into where he'll be when his playing days are over. After this term is finished, Soleyn plans on heading to Central Michigan with hopes of someday becoming an athletic director at a major university or college.
"I have coached in the past, but I don't see myself as being a professional coach or coaching as a career," he remarks. "My ultimate goal would be in sports administration or sports management, something involving the players and athletes."
When Soleyn considers his time at Western, he's thankful for the chances he's had. "I've played with a bunch of great guys and had an opportunity to meet a lot of great people. I've really enjoyed the people and connections I've made," Soleyn explains. "To be honest, there's nothing I really regret. I've made some mistakes, but I've enjoyed my time."
Fortunately for Mustangs fans, his time isn't over yet.
-with files from David Lee