Unexpected gifts at this time of the year are always a pleasant surprise but for Red Deer’s Joe McQuay this special offering was one he earned.
The 17-year-old Notre Dame High School student received an email on Christmas Day to let him know he had been selected to Football Canada’s Junior National team roster which will play the United States U-19 team in February at Maverick Stadium at the University of Texas in Arlington.
“I was actually shocked when I got the message because I’m only 17 trying out for an under 20 tournament and I was two years younger than most of those players,” said the 6’5” tall, 270 lb lineman.
McQuay is one of 10 linemen selected to the 60-man roster after several different identification camps were held across he country involving about 500 players.
The one-day camp up in Edmonton in December was where McQuay had to put on a show and he felt he did plenty to earn his spot on this team.
“Coach (Gino) Castellan (his high school coach) came up there too and he said it was one of my best camps that I’ve ever had.”
The game is the third between the two nations at this level, splitting the first two so the rubber match is expected to be intense and quick.
“We’re playing American rules and those kids have been playing that their entire life so that one yard doesn’t affect them,” said McQuay.
Conversely, the Canadian kids are doing a little extra to compensate.
McQuay says he’s playing basketball at Notre Dame to develop more quickness with his footwork which is so important for an offensive lineman. He is also running drills with someone right in his face to get used the close proximity of the man he’s to block.
But like most offensive lineman, the run game is the part which gives him the most pleasure and even though he doesn’t have a yard of distance on the line McQuay says it makes it that much sweeter.
This accomplishment is a huge boost in confidence for McQuay as he heads into a tryout for the provincial north high school team in the spring in addition to the camp for the University of Alberta Golden Bears squad.
There he will compete against players four years old than him.
“You’re never going to be the biggest person on the field, the fastest, the strongest, the quickest but as long as you’ve got that calm, hey I can beat this guy, you’re most likely going to do it.”
The roster from this game will be trimmed down to 45 and those players will head over to Kuwait, representing Canada at the World Championships.