Graham Wright might be playing the final football game of his career in today’s Winnipeg High School Football Senior Bowl.
If that’s the case he will do so with the memory of Norman Lowes not far from his mind.
Wright, an 18-year-old defensive tackle with the Vincent Massey Vikings, and Lowes were neighbours until Lowes died in late January after a valiant battle with Parkinson’s disease and malignant melanoma.
He was 70 years old.
Although this season marked the first year of competitive football for the six-foot-five, 279-pound Wright, he and Lowes would chat regularly, including about football.
Lowes played with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, garnering all-star honours as an offensive guard (1967) and linebacker (1969), and Wright would like nothing more than to follow in that path by playing Canadian university football.
"My neighbour passed away a couple months ago and he was a really big football fan and he never got to see me play because I didn’t play football until this year," Wright said from Altona. "He was pretty sick by the time I started playing so I’d like to play this one for him and hopefully turn some heads."
"He was a real battler."
Wright, who finished with 4 1/2 tackles and two sacks this past season in Kas Vidruk (AA) Division play with Massey, has been granted conditional acceptance into the University of Manitoba and is hoping members of the Bisons coaching staff in attendance see something in him at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg.
The game kicks off at 10 a.m.
"I applied to the U of M and if there’s a couple of coaches there hopefully I can turn their heads and maybe get a spot on the roster even if I redshirt," Wright said. "That’d be pretty cool."
The multi-sport athlete, Wright has also played baseball, basketball, hockey and volleyball with the Vikings, said he would listen to offers to play in the Prairie Football Conference with the likes of the Winnipeg Rifles, but is content if today is the final time he dons pads and a helmet.
He wants to focus on his academics and intends to get his education degree.
But today he wants to leave a good impression on all the scouts and coaches present and make Lowes proud.
"It’d definitely mean a lot to me because it’s kind of like ending high school with a bang," Wright said. In order to turn some heads I’d say I’ve got to get into the backfield and cause some pressure on the QB."
Wright’s Massey teammates, running back Mack Adams and quarterback David Bachewich, who has committed to play in the defensive backfield for the Minto State University Beavers next season, will also be at the Senior Bowl on Team Boyd.
The squad is named after the late Crocus Plainsmen head coach Kevin Boyd, who unexpectedly passed away on Feb. 29, 2016 at the age of 46 from complications with stomach and liver issues.
Four of Boyd’s former players — quarterback Sam Esler, receiver Dakota Richard, defensive back Cordell Chartrand and linebacker Doug Wilkinson, who is joining the University of Alberta Golden Bears in the fall — will be on the other side of the ball, on Team Kapinik.
Adams, who had opportunities to play in the Canadian Junior Football League, most notably with the Rifles and in the British Columbia Football Conference, knows today will not be his last game on the gridiron.
The five-foot-nine, 150-pounder intends to play with the Westman Wolverines of the Manitoba Major Junior Football League this season and attend Assiniboine Community College in the fall.
"I was pretty serious about going (to B.C.)," Adams said. "I was getting really excited. I was going to go with my friend but he’s going out somewhere else and I just decided that I want to stay here (in Brandon)."
The 18-year-old who had a fantastic senior season with the Vikings, rushing for 1,510 yards and 13 touchdowns in the regular season, is looking forward to lining up against the best of the best graduating players in the WHSFL.
"I just think it’s another opportunity to play," Adams said. "I just think it’s going to be fun. We have a lot of other running backs on our team, too. We’re just going to be switching out and I’m just going to try to play my heart out."
He’d like nothing more than to have a big game and reach the end zone one more time with that Vikings helmet.
"That’s all I want, to be honest, to be able to play against a bunch of the top players from the whole league and see if I can do better than a lot of them would mean a lot to me," Adams said.
Chartrand’s goal is a lot simpler than that of Adams or Wright.
"Don’t suck," Chartrand quipped.
The five-foot-eight, 155-pounder registered 32 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery during a 4-3 regular season for Crocus, but he knows the Senior Bowl marks the end of his football playing days.
Chartrand, 18, intends to enter the workforce, however not before one more game.
"I’m just going in there and going to go hard," he said. "I don’t really have any plans afterwards so I don’t really care about injury so I’m just going to go in there doing what I can do."
More importantly, he’s looking forward to playing alongside his Crocus teammates one more time.
"It’s going to be really fun actually," Chartrand said. "It will be our last chance to play with each other."
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