Gittens Jr. becomes the 5th Laurier player ever to win OUA MVP
As the clock struck zero in the contest for the Yates Cup, the Golden Hawks fell short of being able to call themselves champions.
But time has passed and perspective has been gained for Golden Hawks receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr.
“We’ve been through a lot of obstacles,” Gittens Jr. said.
“But all those things … without us going through all those obstacles we wouldn’t be the team we are, in the Yates Cup.”
“Obviously, we didn’t get the result we wanted to but I felt like it was a successful season, not everything ends with winning. You have to grow in order to win, so that’s what I think we did, we grew,” he said.
The reality of the game is that only one team gets to be content at the end of the year. Not every year is going to end in championships, that’s what keeps things interesting.
Even when teams fall short they can still find high points on the season, looking to obstacles overcome and challenges met.
The work of third-year receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr was perhaps one of the team’s highest points.
His efforts totaled for 953 yards on 75 receptions and six touchdowns, earning him the title of OUA MVP.
This makes Gittens Jr. the fifth Golden Hawk to ever win the award.
“It means more to the team than me because without my quarterback, without my other receivers, without the o-linemen none of it could have been possible so I got to thank everyone.”
Gittens Jr. understands that in football all achievements are team achievements — and that his ability to do his job relies on the abilities of 11 others to do theirs.
“So it’s not just me,” he said. “It’s people, it’s my coaches, it’s my teammates too. It’s nice to get [the MVP award], it feels good; it’s a nice little confidence boost.”
Kurleigh Gittens Jr. came into this season wanting to contribute more to his team. “Last year the season didn’t go the way I wanted, but this year I kind of had a chip on my shoulder,” he said.
In order to be the player he wanted to be he had to make changes in the offseason, this included getting bigger.
“I really focused on getting bigger. I was just focusing on upper body, I wasn’t proportionate. So that resulted in last year me having hamstring issues throughout the whole year.”
But adding extra mass not only helped Gittens Jr. stay healthy throughout the season, it helped transform his game.
“As a first-year receiver I was a fast guy, a speed guy. Second year I didn’t really find my identity because I was hurt … [I] wasn’t myself,” he said.
“And this year, I developed into an all-around receiver, which is speed, running every single route tree there is and just blocking and also adding to the return game.”
As receivers age, they get better at separating from cornerbacks and, for Gittens Jr., gone are the days of just being faster than the other man.
He has transitioned from being an excellent deep threat receiver to being a dangerous all-around receiver that defensive coordinators have to game plan for.
“I wanted another one this year but the best team won. So no, I don’t get complacent, because I haven’t reached my full potential — so I am always trying to get better.”
“That’s what this season truly dictates,” Gittens Jr. said. “That I am an all-around receiver that I can do everything … and that’s more dangerous than anything else.”
How defenses have decided to play number 19 for the Hawks changed throughout the course of the year. As the season progressed teams needed to allocate more attention to stop Gittens Jr.
“So it started off with just man on man and then once [we got] a couple games in they shaded a mesh guy, sometimes it would be the safety. And then one guy presses me and then one guy over him,” he said.
Football can be a numbers game and, the more defenses try to stop Kurleigh Gittens Jr, the easier it is for his teammates to get the ball.
Gittens Jr. isn’t all that concerned with how teams play him, as long as the end result is a win.
“If I don’t get the ball that means my other guys are open and I am 100 per cent sure they’re going to make the play,” he said.
Even with all the accolades, Gittens Jr doesn’t find himself taking much time to bask in past achievements.
“I am always hungry … that’s really my focus for next year and in life too. Just focus on what I can control and everything else will follow.”