Brock Gowanlock was so close to his first Canadian Football League training camp last week, but still had to come up with a little more patience.
The Montreal Alouettes, who drafted Gowanlock in the 2020 CFL draft, were preparing to open camp on Saturday, July 11, and the rookie defensive lineman had a couple more days of cooling his heels in a Montreal hotel room, where he had been isolating since July 2.
“I’m super excited,” said the Duncan-born Gowanlock, who got his start in football with the Cowichan Bulldogs. “It feels like it’s going by slow, sitting here waiting.”
It was a bit of a culture shock, Gowanlock admitted, going from a province where the COVID protocols are loosening to another where they are still somewhat more strict.
“It’s definitely been a bit of a changeup,” he said. “In B.C., we just got rid of the mask mandates, then you come out here and the rules are all different.”
He can shrug it all off as “part of the process,” however.
“I’m just happy to be playing football this year,” Gowanlock said.
The last time Gowanlock played in an actual football game was in the fall of 2019 — his senior season with the University of Manitoba Bisons. That’s a long time between competitions, but he says he’s not worried about it. Before heading to Montreal, Gowanlock — a former standout with the Cowichan Piggies and Cowichan Secondary Thunderbirds rugby teams — had been training at the national rugby development centre in Victoria.
“Going into last year’s camp, I was probably feeling better, but I still feel good,” he said. “I haven’t missed a day of training.”
Gowanlock is part of a deep group of defensive line hopefuls at the Alouettes’ camp, including some veterans with CFL and NFL experience, but he’s confident he can crack the lineup when the season opens.
“This is pro sports: the best guy plays,” he said. “I definitely feel like I have a chance.”
First-year players, Gowanlock points out, often take on more of a special teams role, and that’s something he’s willing to do if it means being on the roster and getting a chance to show the coaches what he is capable of.
“There are a lot of veteran guys, but if they’re not available on game day, maybe that opens up a spot for me,” he said. “I’m just as excited about special teams as I am about the defensive line opportunity.”
Unlike most years, there will be no preseason games in 2021, so the teams will go straight from camp to regular-season action. The Alouettes actually have the first week off, then play their first two games on the road, against the Edmonton Elks on Aug. 14, and the Calgary Stampeders on Aug. 20. The game in Calgary is a particularly exciting prospect for Gowanlock, whose mom grew up in Calgary. Although he played at McMahon Stadium with the Bisons, taking the field with a pro team would be different.
“That would definitely be a proud moment to play in that stadium in a CFL jersey,” he said. “It’s one of the places I play my best.”
Never one to forget where he came from, Gowanlock made sure to give a shout out to Cowichan Football, especially to coaches Ross McCauley, Brian Scott, Opie Williams, Jeff McDonald, and Trevor and Phil Slater.
“All those coaches made opportunities for me,” he said. “I hope I can do them proud.”