Grades Before The Gridiron
Rookie Vaillancourt Tipped for Pro Ball, but Rejects International Bowl
Rookies are supposed to be complementary pieces to a sports team. They’re expected to stay quiet, absorb information and learn the ropes until their moment comes somewhere down the road.
But once in a while a rookie breaks through the stereotype and becomes an overnight sensation. It happens all the time in pro sports, but this year we saw it in our own backyard courtesy of 19-year-old Stingers defensive back Kadeem Vaillancourt.
Vaillancourt, a native of Ottawa currently studying environmental science, burst onto to CIS football scene this year posting solid numbers (14 tackles, seven assists, one interception), and displaying the raw size and talent normally reserved for high-level NCAA college players.
For this, Vaillancourt was selected to play in the third annual International Bowl on Feb. 1 in Austin, Tx. The concept revolves around pitting a U.S squad against a team formed of international players, all under 19-years of age.
“I’m really excited about the selection,” said Vaillancourt, “It’s a big game and I wanted to go there and show I could play with the guys on the top U.S. college teams.”
But unfortunately, Vaillancourt will not be attending the event due to academic obligations, having made a commitment to be more focused on schoolwork than before.
“I found it really hard to find balance between school and football. I ended up putting most of my effort into football,” said Vaillancourt. “I’ve changed my habits toward school, making it an equal priority. I bring the same football mentality towards school now.”
News of his selection was still a moment of extreme pride for him and his family.“What he’s doing is far beyond my reality,” said Vaillancourt’s proud father, Rick Clarke. “I tell his younger siblings ‘following in your dad’s footsteps is OK, but if I were you I would follow Kadeem’s lead—he’s way ahead’.
Despite the fact that he won’t participate head-to-head with the greatest on the continent, his dad stands by him whether he chooses to go into professional football, or stays on the traditional route. Many, however, are tipping the teenager off for the former.
“He’s a very amazing kid and the family would be extremely happy and proud of him, but I don’t think anyone here would be surprised [if he went pro], because he said that’s what he is heading for,” said Clarke. “I think if he’s not playing pro football, it’s because he chose not to.”
Vaillancourt’s accomplishment garnered similar responses from his teammates and coaches. Defensive coordinator Phil Roberts thought Vaillancourt was well-deserving of the recognition.
“We’re definitely proud of him for being selected,” said Roberts, “He did a great job this year covering some of the best receivers in the country. He’s very much a prototypical U.S. corner, he’s got great size and the talent is definitely there.”
Vaillancourt credits his early success to learning things quickly, and to his coaches and teammates for helping him assimilate to his new environment.
“I feel the reason I performed the way I did is because I have a coaching staff who I felt, from the beginning, had faith in me and want me to succeed,” said Vaillancourt. “They placed me in situations to make plays, be it scheme or play calling, and I feel the way we play defence plays to my strengths.”
Regarding the tumultuous ending of this season—where the Stingers lost 33-7 to the Laval Rouge et Or—Vaillancourt was already looking ahead to next year, showing no worry about the state of the team moving forward.
“I’m surrounded by perfectionists therefore their attitudes should rub off on me and make next season that much more interesting. I urge people to come out and watch.”
Vaillancourt is already being touted as a good prospect with a great chance to play professional football, something that he says has been part of his plan all along.
“I’m in university to not only get a degree to fall back on, but also to work as hard as I can so that someday I can make it pro. I feel I can compete at that level,” he said.
“I’ve been thinking about for so long that it all seems to make sense to me.”