Top regional football prospect commits to Laurier

For the past three years, Wilfrid Laurier University football head coach Gary Jeffries has watched all three Waterloo County Secondary School Athletic Association (WCSSAA) MVP’s head to London to play for the team the Golden Hawks love to hate, the Western Mustangs.

In 2008, Resurrection’s Beau Landry committed to the purple and white, while Cameron Heights’ Andrew Thibaudeau and Tyler Varga did the same in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

But in 2011, the Doug Shuh award winner has chosen to buck that trend and stay in town, and Jeffries and the rest of the Laurier coaches couldn’t be happier.

Andrew McWhinnie, Sir John A. MacDonald’s (SJAM) leading linebacker and an important piece to their 2011 WCSSAA championship announced his commitment to Laurier today.

In a press conference held on Wednesday at the football offices (otherwise known as the Classen House), Jeffries formally welcomed McWhinnie to the program.

“For me, it was just the best fit,” said a smiling McWhinnie. “I feel most comfortable here and obviously I grew up in Waterloo so this is the team I grew up with, watching as a fan and the place I feel I would be most successful.”

McWhinnie can be classified as a middle linebacker, one who returned an interception for a touchdown in SJAM’s championship game versus Jacob Hespeler. The six-foot-four, 225-pound player is a rare specimen on a purely physical basis, let alone the talent he possesses.

“He’s certainly that size [to be successful],” said Jeffries. “He’s the prototypical inside linebacker who can make plays inside … and he can cover as well … We’ve got him slated for lining up the middle for sure.”

McWhinnie can call himself one of the few who have ever spurned Western once the school came calling.

“It’s just not home,” he said. “You can’t duplicate anything you have here. Obviously Western’s got a great program there and outstanding facilities, but at Laurier, you just feel like part of the family from the very first recruiting trip. They make you feel at home.”

McWhinnie decided to make the announcement so early because he wanted to start the training process at Laurier as soon as possible and wanted to relieve the stress of all the programs that called his place on most nights.

“There were a lot of schools after Andrew … but I got the impression that the feel was right,” said Jeffries.

The team also announced they will be showcasing another 11 recently-committed recruits on Saturday morning, with as many as another eight having the potential to step in right away.

Jeffries is hoping that the team can persuade Nelson High School’s Wes Livermore to come in and fill ex-kick returner Dillon Heap’s spot when the team makes a visit on Thursday.

In the meantime, Jeffries explained McWhinnie is a player that the team has identified as a franchise cornerstone.

“We’re re-loading and [McWhinnie] is certainly a guy we can reload around,” said Jeffries after a good number of his star players have graduated this year, which most likely includes recent No. 2 CFL 2012 draft-prospect Shamawd Chambers.

“I think [McWhinnie’s] signing will attract others and not just within the tri-cities but all around the country,” said the coach. “A lot of people know this young man so I think good players attract other good players.”

McWhinnie has yet to decide on a number but said he may stick with either 74, a number he wore in high school, or 54, the digits her donned in summer football.

“I don’t really like picking famous numbers,” said the Waterloo product. “I just wanted to make a number my own.”

As for plans for his new team come training camp in August, McWhinnie is chomping at the bit to get started.

“I’m hoping to hit the ground running,” said the prized linebacker.

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