Portrait of a Leader
All-Star Linebacker Max Caron Reflects on His Career as a Stinger
Competitive. Hard-working. Proud. Leader. Those are just some of the words that come to mind to define fourth-year Stingers linebacker Max Caron.
They’re words that could define the Kingston, Ontario native since he first began playing hockey and soccer as a boy.
“My parents gave me and my older brother every opportunity to play sports year-round,” said Caron. “And having a brother so close in age, it really fueled my competitive nature and we fought it out in every sport.”
It’s made of him a leader in the Stingers’ locker room.
“Max is a born professional, whether it be at practices or at games he always will give you 100 per cent,” said Kris Bastien, Stingers slotback. “Whether we’re up by 20 or down by 20 he’s always giving it his all.”
Bastien and Caron started on the Stingers the same year back in the 2010-2011 season. But as Bastien says, Caron was only a rookie on paper.
“I remember back when we were both first-years, I felt inexperienced; I met Max, a fellow rookie, but he was a born pro,” said Bastien. “A natural football player and true role model, he’s very vocal and loud—but always gets along with everybody.”
The way Max explains it is that there are two sides to him: his personality on the turf, and the one off it.
“When I’m outside of the stadium I’m social, friendly, [into] having a good time, [with a] happy-go-lucky personality where I don’t take things too seriously,” Caron says. “But when I’m in game mode on the field or on the sidelines I’m 100 per cent committed, very serious and extremely competitive. Football is definitely my on and off switch.”
Taking up the sport in sixth grade, Caron joined the Ontario Provincial Police minor football program, a move he says helped shape him. Caron says he chose football out of any other sports because it combined competitiveness with contact, and he sees the coaches as strong motivators and as people to look up to.
Caron isn’t the first notable player to get his start with the OPP’s football program. Former Stinger and fellow Kingston native Cory Greenwood played in the same program growing up and is coming off his third season as a linebacker in the NFL. Receiver Rob Bagg of the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League is also a former member of the OPP squad.
After leading his high school, Frontenac Secondary School, to Ontario regional finals in his senior year, Caron decided to join the Canadian Junior Football League as a member of the Okanagan Sun. The move meant leaving his friends and family behind in Ontario to relocate across the country to British Columbia.
His career in football almost took a disastrous turn when, three weeks into joining the Sun, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and was sidelined indefinitely. Thankfully Caron’s parents were able to get the best operation possible, but he still had to miss an entire year to rehab.
“When I’m in game mode on the field or on the sidelines I’m 100 per cent committed, very serious and extremely competitive. Football is definitely my on and off switch.”
Max Caron, Stingers linebacker
Fortunately, Caron had the support of fellow Okanagan Sun teammate Paul Spencer to get him through the year.
“Paul was a great role model, a leader and a friend,” said Caron. “I had nothing but tremendous respect for him then, and same now.”
Once Spencer committed to Concordia, it wasn’t long before Caron tagged along, being sold on the idea by Jason Casey, a former Stinger linebacker and 1998 Vanier Cup finalist.
Caron admits that he was thinking of going back for another year with the Sun, until then-Stingers defensive coordinator Phil Roberts got his hand on his highlight reel tape and called him late in the offseason to offer him a position.
“I knew nothing about Concordia, but I was ready to move on,” said Caron. “I felt it would be a great fit for me—and it has been nothing but.”
Caron says he has fond memories of his time so far with the Stingers, everything from the people he’s met to scoring the game-winning touchdown in his first game as part of the Maroon and Gold.
Caron has started every game since then, and it’s not just because of his athletic ability.
“He’s kind of like another coach out there, a real student of the game,” said current defensive coordinator Luc Pelland. “He knows what the offence is going to do, and what him and the defence are set to do. He knows all what’s going on around him, making sure everybody’s in the right spot.”
As a 24-year-old veteran, Caron is one of the older players of the team—and perhaps one of the most admired.
“Being called a mentor is definitely something really special for me,” said Caron.
Touted before the 2013 season began as the seventh-ranked prospect for next May’s Canadian Football League draft, Caron realizes that his time as a Stinger is coming to a close, and says he’ll cherish the memories and friends he’s made at Concordia.
But the sadness of his looming departure is met by the anticipation of a new beginning in the CFL.
“As a player, getting drafted is exciting and I can’t wait because this is the moment I’ve been waiting for my whole life,” said Caron. The humble man that he is, Caron isn’t letting it all go to his head, however.
“It’s not about what you’ve done,” said Caron. “It’s about what you’re doing.”
Nonetheless, it’s hard to overlook the fact that the 6-foot-2, 210-pound political science major won the 2011 Presidents’ Trophy for best defensive player in Collegiate Interuniversity Sport—something he still found a way to be humble about.
“It’s great to win [the award] in the moment,” said Caron. “But to be honest, it’s unfortunate sometimes to win an individual award on a team sport.”
At season’s end, Caron will hang up him his no. 10 jersey for good. While his focus then will be on making the CFL, that won’t be the only thing on his mind.
“The coaches often ask us about legacy,” Caron said. “And it always gets me wondering what my legacy will be when I leave [Concordia].”