Sacobie looks for a greater challenge

Talking with coach Denis Piché and star QB Josh Sacobie for a column in today's Ottawa Sun gave some fresh insight into the No. 2-ranked Gee-Gees and their star passer.

The article ended up being about Sacobie, who grew up in First Nations communities in New Brunswick, striving to become a role model for aboriginal issues and becoming more open about his identity. Josh noted early in the conversation that he's met people "who will say, 'he didn't grow up on a First Nations community.' ... in fact, the first time I left was to go to Champlain College (a Quebec CEGEP) in 2002."

The reality of people not knowing how he grew up and having a high profile as a star athlete has compelled Sacobie to be vocal about the "urgency" to provide positive role models for aboriginals across Canada who face long odds. He's walking his talk. Sacobie spent 10 weeks this summer as a youth counsellor in a Cree community in northern Quebec. He's also getting involved in Aboriginal Youth in Action. He also "jumped at the chance" when asked to be uOttawa's student ambassador for Spread The Net.

"When I look back at all this, the thing I may be most proud of is not the touchdown passes or the passing yards," he said, "but that I was able to do something to improve people’s lives."

What didn't fit the column (and I'm still easing back into the news-gathering game for the dead-tree medium) was the more technical stuff that's gravy to a football geek.
  • Sacobie has eclipsed the school career marks Phill Côté (who won the Hec Crighton in 1999 and led Ottawa to the 2000 Vanier Cup) set for TD passes and yards, and did it in one less season. He also needs just one scoring pass this Saturday vs. Windsor to break the single-season mark of 18 he shares with Côté -- the most dominant performer these eyes ever saw play in the CIS.

    Piché was quick to point out the contrast: "Phill was more like Steve Young and Josh is more like Dan Marino -- actually, John Elway is a better fit. Phill would run around quite a bit. Josh stays more in the pocket -- like Elway, he can run if he has to, it's not pretty, but he can."
  • What's striking about Ottawa this season is their discipline. Despite working in new backs, receivers and blockers (Kirk Kirkwood was a big unplanned-for loss), they have lost the ball on fumbles and interceptions an OUA-low 11 times. They are also the OUA's second-least penalized team, a pretty winning combo.

    Sacobie has just four interceptions in 212 attempts -- the lowest rate of any CIS starter -- and he's had just two picks since Week 1. Piché noted, "And he's done with a brand-new set of receivers," noting slotback David Crane is the only returnee from last year's set of starting receivers.

    Sacobie said that stat is a point of pride for him. "The fact we can manage the ball like that says something about our whole team, the linemen blocking for me and our receivers. We've had some outstanding catches."
  • Another difference in the Gee-Gees, in Sacobie's view, is that they've passed serious fourth-quarter tests the past two weeks against Queen's and Laurier. That didn't happen last season prior to the Mitchell Bowl loss to Saskatchewan. Sacobie led a winning drive to beat Queen's on Oct. 6, and his 45-yard pass to Crane in the final three minutes put away the Golden Hawks.

    "It's like, 'man, we know how to win in the fourth quarter,' " Sacobie said. "We didn’t have that before."
  • The Gee-Gees had the Russ Jackson Award (best combination of academic, athletics and community involvement) last season in o-lineman Naim El-Far, which speaks to the character of their team. "We've got a whole team of Joshes," Piché said, adding that the maturation process is "one of the best parts of the business we're in -- it sure isn't the money."

Sacobie champions cause (Ottawa Sun)

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