(COURTESY EUGENE NICHOLAS)
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Samuel and Lawrence Nicholas are not your ordinary players.
Being a 265-pound, 6’2 13-year-old, Kanehsatà:kehró:non Sam was too strong and colossal for soccer, but was the perfect fit for football.
Eleven-year-old, 5’7 Lawrence, follows his brother close behind.
Football is surely atypical in Indigenous communities, who are usually more apt to play lacrosse and hockey, but this did not stop Annie Nicholas. She searched for a sport that fit her sons perfectly.
“I was the one that always said to be in sport, you have to be fit and fast, have the look of sports guys,” said the mother of two. “But my two kids, they are not built like that, they are not small. But however you look and are built, you can find a way to do sports and enjoy it. That’s something I found out with football.”
Three years ago, football became everything for Sam. He first joined a winter camp with the Rebels from St. Hubert. Now, he is a defensive lineman with the Bantam AAA Pirates of Beloeil, with whom he won his first game last week.
“It actually used to be Laurent Duvernay Tardif’s team, who ended up playing for the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL,” said Sam’s father, Eugene Nicholas.
While the Quebec sensation is a great role model, both parents explained that their goal is not to pressure their kids to perform.
“If they decide not to go professional, that’s fine,” said Eugene, who gives all credit to his wife for his kids success.
“As long as they have fun enjoying what they are doing, that’s the main thing! We don’t put pressure on them or say that they didn’t make enough points. No, they did the best they can. When you don’t put pressure that’s when they perform.”
This year’s season usually starts at the beginning of summer, but it was shortened due to the pandemic. It didn’t stop the two players from training almost four times a week.
“The period of training was shorter,” said Annie. “They put measures into place to take care of the kids. We have to stay separated from families and keep the distance, keep the masks on all the time. We have to be careful.”
“We all do what we have to do to keep the sport alive,” she said.
The family lives in St. Mathias and while the sport is bringing a lot of adrenaline for Sam, Annie said that it’s more of a hobby for their youngest.
“Lawrence started two or three months after his brother,” she said. “He had an experience with a guy at the park who tried to steal his Nerf gun and he tackled him. He came back to the house saying he wanted to play football because he saw how good he was at tackling people.”
The initial plan might have been to get their boys moving, but it seems that football became something else for the entire family.
It taught them how “looking the part” as an athlete is not important. For these boys, not fitting in the athletic mould brought pride in an unexpected way.
“In other sports, you see them looking alike,” said Annie. “But with football, the most beautiful thing is the unity of different shapes. They all get together and there will never be any preference or disqualification because you are too big or too tall.”