© Scott Anderson
Saskatchewan Roughrider receiver Chris Getzlaf has made a series of appearance in the Southwest over the past two year, including delivering anti-bullying messages in area schools.
Saskatchewan Roughrider receiver Chris Getzlaf more than walks the walk when it comes to being an ambassador for the defending Grey Cup Champion Riders.
Getzlaf is busy during the off-season making trips across the province to promote the team, and he was recently in the Southwest for a trio of different reasons. On April 7 he was at Chaplin School during Pink Shirt Week to deliver a Red Cross RespectEd talk about bullying prevention, and later that same day he was the featured speaker at Innovation Credit Union's Member Reception. After making a few other stops in the province, he returned to the region to be one of the featured guests at the SWT Sportsman Dinner and Auction in Cabri.
"I feel like, as a professional athlete I have the opportunity to go out to communities like this and really express the importance of the topic, hopefully being able to get more attention than somebody else trying to relate in that situation," Getzlaf said following a previous school visit regarding bullying. "I hope by having my social status and people maybe knowing who I am in the community, I may have a bigger impact on them in trying to convey that message."
"I just want everyone to come to school everyday wanting to learn, wanting to make friends, and people enjoying coming to school. That’s kind of the goal, is to try to turn people’s heads and make everyone aware that bullying is happening on a regular basis. If we all do our little part to help, then we can eventually stop it."
"Bullying happens more often than people realize. I think the biggest statistic to know is that 57% of the time bullying will stop within 10 seconds or less if someone is willing to speak up and stand up to the bully. It’s just kind of relaying that there is a lot of power with the bystander. When you think of bullying you always think of the bully and the person being bullied, but it’s really the people that are around and witnessing it that have the power to do something about it."
A quartet of CFL players, Getzlaf along with Scott McHenry, Neal Hughes, plus former Rider and now Ottawa RedBlacks defensive tackle Keith Shologan, are involved with the delivery of the Red Cross presentation Beyond The Hurt, to address the issue and help put an end to bullying.
"I've been doing it for the last three years and it's really rewarding to get into the community and talk to these students and make sure that they're focussing on the right thing. And we truly believe that building positive, health relationships will enhance the lives of everybody.
During his talk at the Credit Union member reception, he reflected on the Riders Grey Cup championship season and shared some insights into how the team worked together to capture the Canadian Football League's top prize.
After roaring out to an 8-1 start to the season and becoming an early Grey Cup favourite, the Riders lost four in a row, and a number of fans jumped off the bandwagon. Their slide started by dropping the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg and losing four straight before earning a statement win 31-17 over the host BC Lions which helped them start a 6-2 finish to the regular season.
"Everyone just stood up and we basically said 'enough is enough! We've got to turn this ship around!' And we really made a statement in Vancouver that day. And we hadn't won there for a while, and we came out and we smashed them. It was the turning point of the season. We took it from there."
Getzlaf admitted that four game losing streak will be relevant on their Grey Cup rings, as there will be a symbol on the ring to remind them of what they had to overcome to be successful.
The Riders had a 6-2 finish to the season, before earning a home 29-25 win over BC and a road 35-13 victory against Calgary to book a spot in the Grey Cup on home turf. And their dominating 45-23 Grey Cup win over Hamilton was the ideal finish to the year.
"To have that experience and be able to win the Grey Cup at home was nothing short of amazing, and I think that it'll be impossible to top."
He gave special recognition to the contribution Geroy Simon as a leader and mentor during the championship season.
"Any time you add a player with Geroy's pedigree, he's going to have an immediate impact when he walks into the dressing room. A guy like that - a true professional, a true leader - he comes in and he grabs everyone's attention instantly."
Getzalf, who is preparing for his eighth season as a pro, is hoping to become more of a mentor to the younger players in the locker room.
"I think every year I grow as a leader and I talk more and more with the guys, and make sure that our young guys are thinking about the right things."
While the 2014 edition of the Riders will boast a strong core of returning players, Getzlaf notes they have lost some key contributors to the team. On offence they loss of receiver and leader Weston Dressler to the NFL leaves a sizeable receiving gap, while Grey Cup MVP running back Kory Sheets, who ran for a record 197 yards in the Grey Cup, will also be pursing an NFL career.
On the defensive side of their scheme, the Riders have holes to fill in linebacker with loss of Canadian linebacker Craig Butler to free-agency, and question marks regarding the potential return of veteran Mike McCullough in combination with the retirement of Rey Williams following a knee injury.
However, with arguably the best offensive line in the league, and a league elite secondary, Getzalf is looking forward to defending their Grey Cup championship.
"All in all, I think we have a great core group of guys," Getzlaf said.