Possible Stampeder no more
Imagine this, you’re a young kid growing up in Regina playing minor football and cheering on the Saskatchewan Roughriders. For many years you dream about playing in the CFL for your favourite team, but in reality, it’s just that: a dream. Real enough, but seemingly just out of reach. For University of Regina Rams lineman Aaron Picton, that childhood dream is quickly becoming a reality. Sept 29. the Calgary Stampeders traded Picton’s rights to the Riders.
The Regina native grew up cheering for the Riders and attending many of their games.
“When I was younger, I went to a lot of games with my dad, brother, grandpa, uncles and cousins. I have always been a fan of the CFL, and being from Regina, I did cheer for the Riders.”
Over this past summer, however, the 23-year-old, had to give up cheering for the Riders and start getting more familiar with one of their biggest rivals, the the Calgary Stampeders, who took him 53rd overall in the 2015 CFL Draft. The main thing that stood out for Aaron in his draft experience was seeing some of his teammates get drafted early and having his whole family there when his name got called.
“On the day of the draft I was pretty busy. I worked during the day and then went to workout with the Rams. I got home just as the draft was starting and it was very cool to see a couple of my Rams teammates drafted early,” he said with a smile. “When I was selected, I was just sitting at home with some family and friends, it was very exciting to have them there for that.”
The next step was to go to Calgary in May and June for the Stampeders summer training camp, where he was eventually released and sent back to school to finish up his final season of eligibility in the CIS, and his degree in business administration.
At the time his rights were traded to the Riders, Picton didn’t have his phone on him, so when he got to his phone he had a nice little surprise waiting.
“The first thing that I saw was a tweet from the Riders’ account. When I checked my missed calls I had a voicemail from Jeremy O’Day. I was kind of in shock to see this; I wasn’t expecting it at all,” said the 6’4” lineman, recalling the unexpected event. “It was shocking, I didn’t really see it coming. I haven’t talked to the Riders very much, and am just focusing on my final season with the Rams right now. It is definitely very cool to have the opportunity to stay home.”
The CFL hasn’t always been on the radar for Aaron in terms of career opportunities.
“When I first joined the Rams, it wasn’t even in my consideration.”
But as the lineman worked on his game, and started to get better, it became clearer that playing football professionally might very well be an option, and he decided to start working even harder and focusing a little more than he was already, to get the most out of the game.
“I decided that, because of all of the hard work I had put into developing as a football player, I would pursue football as far as it would take me.”
After the Rams season finishes up, and when time for the Riders summer camp comes around, he will be much more prepared than he was the first time because of the lessons he learned from the Stampeders camp over this past summer.
“I learned a lot about the expectations of a CFL player and what is required to be able to play in this league. Training camp was very demanding both physically and mentally. You’re there for long days, tough practices, and intense meetings.”
Picton was ready for how physically demanding the camp would be, but he wasn’t ready for the mental side of it.
“I was a little bit surprised at just how intense the mental aspect was. I will work on that during the offseason and be more prepared for my second camp.”
With all the excitement of the daft and trade out of the way, and a good sense of what to expect next time at training camp, the fifth year Rams player can put that all on the shelf for the fall and winter and focus on finishing up his last year with the Rams.
“It is definitely very cool to have the opportunity to stay home, but I will think about that more in the offseason when I am preparing for camp and getting those details figured out.”
As for right now, Picton is probably focusing on the Rams next game against the University of Manitoba Bisons on Oct. 17.