After walking off the field at the end of the 2017 season, quarterback Jakob Loucks was unsure whether he’d ever play football again.
Finding a balance between life, education and sports was presenting its share of challenges for the 20-year-old product of Cornwall, Ont.
That all changed this spring when the Okanagan Sun invited the highly-touted Loucks to pay a visit to Kelowna and see what the B.C. Football Conference club had to offer.
“I didn’t think I was going to play again until I took a visit out here and fell in love with the place, the team, the coaches, the scenery,” said Loucks. “So I was like, yeah, I think I’ll give this one more shot.”
All eyes were on Loucks over the weekend in Kelowna, the most auspicious of the 105 players to take to the field at the Sun’s 2018 spring camp.
The U Sports rookie of the year in 2016, the 5-foot-10, 195-pound pivot started the last two seasons for the Mount Allison University Mounties in Sackville, NB.
With a solid resumé and two years of university ball under his belt, the Sun, not surprisingly, have high expectations of Loucks.
“We’re really impressed with Jakob,” said Sun head coach Ben Macauley. “It’s a tough task, coming in with a lot of pressure on you. He’s one of the top recruits in Canada and he’ll be expected to perform that way…we have high expectations for him and so far he’s handling that very well.
“Overall, he’s been very impressive physically and mentally.”
As for those expectations and living up to the hype, Loucks plans to simply focus his efforts on playing the game.
“I kind of don’t let that stuff affect me, I just put my helmet on and go play football,” said Loucks, who passed for 2,859 yards and 16 touchdowns over two seasons at Mount Allison. “People can expect what they want, but I’m just going to get on the field and give everything I have.”
Other quarterbacks taking reps at Sun camp included Gabe Oliveras, the backup last season at UBC, and Matthew Mahler, who returns from last year’s club.
Nick Wenman, who attended his third spring camp with the Sun, took over as the club’s starter part way through last season. However, Wenman is seriously considering transferring to the university level this fall with Mount Allison.
Thanks to an aggressive and thorough off-season of recruiting by the Sun, Macauley said the coaching staff had an ample crop of intriguing prospects to watch over the course of the three-day camp.
Unlike past years, when the Sun has been hard-pressed to find enough talent to line up in the trenches, Macauley said the offensive line could well be the club’s strength in 2018.
Calgary’s Daniel Townsend and Brendan Barnes, both with university experience, along with Danil Balan, from Montreal, are among those expected to bolster the O-line, complimenting the talents of returnees such as Marshall Klein and Liam Hamlyn.
“At this time of the year, to have some strength in numbers along the offensive line is a huge feather in our cap,” said Macauley. “We’re going to work hard to maintain that.”
The Sun plans to invite 85 players back for the club’s main training camp beginning July 17.
Okanagan kicks off the 2018 B.C. Football Conference season Aug. 5 in Kamloops.