After two years of tutelage Brandon Deschamps heads into his third football camp with the UBC Thunderbirds looking to secure a starting job.
"I'm just looking forward to having a shot and to prove that I can play football at this level and that I can play running back at this level," said Deschamps. "I'm looking forward to competing with all the other running backs to, just so we can have the best team that we can going into the season."
The graduate of Kelly Road secondary school joined the T-birds right out of high school in 2010. After red-shirting (not playing in any games saving his eligibility) his first year, Deschamps saw action on special teams and as a back-up to fifth-year tailback Dave Boyd.
In 2011 the T-birds posted a 7-3 record but lost the Hardy Cup in the Canada West final 63-13 to the Calgary Dinos.
"If you talk to anyone on our team they'd say there's a bitter taste in our mouths when they think about that game," said the six-foot, 205-pound Deschamps. "They were just better than us and we didn't bring what we could've to that game. It's kind of stewed a little bit, so hopefully, it gives us a little boost for this year."
The T-birds will get another chance against the two-time Canada West champs Sept. 15 when the Dinos visit Thunderbird Stadium in the third week of the eight-week regular season.
Deschamps played in three games last season, gaining 12 yards on four carries, while Boyd saw action in six UBC games piling up 469 yards on 86 carries. Both players punched in one touchdown on the ground.
The almost 20-year-old Deschamps credits Boyd with helping him adjust to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport game.
"Dave is one of the best running backs I've ever met in my life," said Deschamps. "He's definitely one of the best football players I've ever played with. He's taught me everything from how to block people to different types of blocks and how to cut people better."
Boyd also gave Deschamps tips on foot, hand and head placement for different plays in the game, especially when catching the ball. Another thing Deschamps said he learned from his older teammate was how to mentally let go of mistakes during a game without dwelling on them.
"The things I've learned haven't just been from asking him questions, which I definitely did and I'll definitely miss this year - I usually spent most of the practice picking his brain for knowledge - but just watching him and seeing how he goes out and how he prepares and how he plays the game," said Deschamps. "It was really important in my development as a young football player."
Deschamps played three seasons for the Kelly Road Roadrunners football team, starting in Grade 10 and credits his work ethic at the senior bowl during his Grade 12 season to getting recruited by UBC. He was awarded the most outstanding running back honour during the week-long camp on the Lower Mainland, which earned him a tryout at the T-birds spring camp.
"I went into the spring camp with the mentality that I probably wasn't going to make that team but I'd learn as much as I could," said Deschamps. "By the second day, I started to think that I could make the team and a little while after that I heard from the coach that I'd made the team."
Deschamps said he expects to see action on special teams with the T-birds this season and with hard work, hopefully, he'll beat out the other four or five guys as the club's main running back.
"I've worked really hard to get to where I am," he said, recalling how overwhelmed it was three years ago as a raw rookie being asked to block 270-pound twenty-somethings. "I wouldn't necessarily say I'm the most talented running back or the fastest or the strongest but I think I bring a lot of effort. I'm not afraid to do whatever they ask of me.
"I'm not afraid to block, in fact, I love blocking," added Deschamps. "I don't have the best hands on the team, my coaches know that. I know that. I've been working on them. I may not always make the right reads in the running game but when I decide to hit the hole I hit it hard. I think what kind of sets me apart is just my effort and that I play every snap to the best of my ability."
The T-birds open the 2012 season with an exhibition game at Thunderbird Stadium, Aug. 25, against Menlo College (Calif.). UBC's first Canada West game is Sept. 1 when they host the Manitoba Bisons.