UBC football fans have a familiar face to cheer for when the BC Lions take on the Edmonton Eskimos tonight at Thunderbird Stadium.
Thanks to the FIFA Women’s World Cup being held at BC Place, running back Brandon Deschamps gets to play his first home game as a professional athlete on the same field he has spent countless hours on in five years as a T-Bird.
“It'll be different for sure, but I think it'll be a pretty neat experience," Deschamps said. "I know a bunch of my (UBC) teammates are gonna be watching the game, and my parents are coming down."
After going unselected in the 2015 CFL Draft, Deschamps signed with the Lions as a free agent just prior to the start of the team’s training camp in Kamloops.
“It was a super disappointing moment,” Deschamps said of the draft. “You go through this big long process and work everything towards that and then hope you get the opportunity. Not getting a phone call, not getting to see your name or anything, it’s pretty tough. It’s all your dreams and in the moment it feels like it’s taken away from you.”
Luckily, the disappointment was short-lived. While it took a couple weeks to be made official, Deschamps found out not long after the draft that the Lions were interested.
“I was able to reset, recharge, and try to get my mind right for that,” he said. “I’m just happy that I got the opportunity, especially to play for a team that I grew up watching.”
A walk-on at UBC, Deschamps' best CIS season came in 2013 when he rushed for 1,007 yards in just seven games, the fifth-highest total in school history. But joining the Lions has been a steep learning curve for the recent philosophy graduate. Not only is there the obvious adjustment to playing at a higher level, Deschamps has also been asked to switch from tailback to fullback, a position he hasn’t played since 10th grade.
“There are things that I’d never done before, that I’ve never been asked to do, that I’m getting asked to do at a higher level with better athletes,” he said.
“The first day of rookie training camp they showed us a playbook, and I never learned any technique or anything, it’s pretty much just like this is what you have to do, go do it. I had no idea what I was doing, but I’ve done my best to pick it up, watch the veterans, and learn from the coaches.”
He’s starting to feel more comfortable, but as the third-string guy at fullback, Deschamps doesn’t get as many reps as the starter, Rolly Lumbala, or the main back-up, Pascal Lochard. Instead, he takes mental reps to help him understand the position and what he should be doing and thinking on a given play.
“In the pros, everybody’s a really good athlete, everyone’s fast, everyone’s strong, so what gives you the edge is understanding your job and being able to execute the technique,” he said.
“A lot of things that I might not have cared that much about in college are really important here. Things like hand placement or your first step can make or break a play. It’s a lot more difficult here, so you have to be that much more exact.”
He’ll be wearing a different colour and a new number when he takes the field tonight, but Deschamps should feel right at home at Thunderbird Stadium, where 9,000 fans are expected to attend.
“It’s really exciting for me to be on that field, to get to grow, to be able to compete at a high level,” Deschamps said. “It’s nice to see where I’ve gone and see where I’m at and kinda come full circle.”