They’re Brandon’s version of "The Big Three."
Tipping the scales at a combined 925 pounds, Brandon’s Landon Rice, Sean Simpson and Nevin Gamblin plan on putting the hurt on some Canada West football players this year as members of the University of Manitoba Bisons football program.
At 24 years old, Rice, a Crocus Plains grad, is entering his final season with the Bisons. The 6-foot-6, 305-pound left guard began his university career with the Bisons by winning a Vanier Cup in 2007, and he sees no reason why this year’s team can’t send him out on the same high note.
"We’re going to get a lot accomplished and a lot of the guys are in their final year of eligibility so we have a good core and we’re ready to finish it off with something big," Rice said. "I think that at the start of every season the goal is to win the Vanier Cup, and it’s what we will be striving for."
Rice, who enters his second year as a captain on the team, will once again be counted on for his veteran presence as the school lost five of the 12 starters on offence from last season.
"I’ve definitely taken on a leadership role and I expect to do more of that this year because we have some new guys coming in and they’re talented guys that are going to push for spots, so hopefully we can build a solid starting five and do a lot with it," Rice said.
Some of those new faces suiting up alongside Rice will be fellow Brandonites Simpson and Gamblin.
The 18-year-old Simpson, who recently graduated from Crocus after playing for the Plainsmen in the Winnipeg High School Football League, had a range of emotions running through him heading into the team’s first training camp, which began with team meetings yesterday and will have the players strap on the pads for the first time on Friday.
"Everyone here is really intense about football," Simpson said. "I’m excited and nervous and I think that’s to be expected — not knowing the level that everyone will be at. It’s a whole new level of football."
The 6-foot-3, 305-pound offensive lineman isn’t sure what his responsibility will be with the Bisons this season. He could potentially be redshirted to save a year of university eligibility, but the former provincial team member hopes his versatility on the field will get him on Bisons roster sooner than later.
"I’m hoping I can hold my own," Simpson said. "In the last year of high school I could kind of toss guys around at will with the techniques I learned with the provincial team, but there is a lot to learn as far as the playbook is concerned and then getting up to the speed of the game coming from high school."
Gamblin, who spent the last two seasons with the Winnipeg Rifles after playing for the Neelin Spartans high school team, was named an all-star offensive lineman last season in the Prairie Football Conference. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound lineman gained valuable experience with the Rifles and may be better suited to stepping in and competing for a starting role in the front five for the Bisons this season.
Rice, who remembers all of uncertainty in his first season of university football, said he plans on reaching out to his new teammates from Brandon to help them feel comfortable at camp.
"I really liked what I saw from both those guys at our spring camp," Rice said.
"They are both really talented, young guys and they’re going to be really good for the Bisons now and into the future."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 15, 2012