Vikings linebacker Steven Gresl was second in sacks (8) and fifth in tackles (45) in the John Potter Division. (CHRIS JASTER/BRANDON SUN)
The Vincent Massey Vikings didn’t win many games in their first season in the Winnipeg High School Football League’s top John Potter (AAA) Division this season, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t show that they can play at that level.
The Vikings, who missed the playoffs with a 1-6 record, had a top-five passer, receiver and rusher this season, but it was their defenders who stood out, and maybe none more than Steven Gresl. Despite only being in Grade 11, Gresl was a force at linebacker. He had the second-most sacks in the league with eight and was fifth overall in tackles with 45.
While he had an impressive year on defence, Gresl just takes it in stride and knows it happened because of a lot of hard work.
"It’s really just from believing in myself and putting in all the work, just hours and hours of weight training and just putting that work in and grinding," he said. "Just trying to be the best person and football player I can become. I don’t want to have any regrets in the future. I just want to become the best athlete I can be."
There aren’t many days when you can’t find Gresl, a 5-foot-10, 210-pound linebacker, in the gym. He’s either lifting weights or doing cardio six days a week and doing everything he can to improve.
Despite all the work he puts into becoming a better athlete, Gresl is a quiet player and leads more by example than by giving a big speech, but that doesn’t bother Vikings head coach Mike Steeves.
"He’s a player who leads by example," Steeves said. "Standing on the sideline, you could go ask him to play any position. Our position is go 100 miles an hour in whatever direction you choose and that’s all he does. You give him the ball, he runs hard. He’ll claw for every inch. He’ll break through blockers to get to the tackle. He’ll do whatever he can to get it done and he’s just so coachable."
Gresl will also do anything he can to help the team. He was asked to play both ways in a few games this season, and had 11 rushes for 65 yards in his four contests in the offensive backfield. He also moved up to the offensive line for a little bit because of injuries.
However, it’s at outside linebacker where the 16-year-old is having the most success, especially coming on blitzes around the end. Steeves believes that Gresl has the tools and dedication needed to have success in football at any level, and Gresl isn’t satisfied with just playing at the high school level.
Gresl, who also competes in high school rugby and track and field, has set his sights on trying to make the provincial under-18 team and earning the right to compete in the Football Canada Cup next summer, even though he’ll have to cover his own costs to travel to and from Winnipeg for camps and practices.
"It’s just two hours to Winnipeg and I’m looking forward to it," said Gresl, who would also like a chance to play NCAA Division I football after he graduates high school. "I’m looking forward to competing again and just trying to get better … I believe I can (play at the U18 level). I think if I put in the work and dedicate myself and believe in myself, I think anything’s possible."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 22, 2013