Waterloo Warriors’ transfers settle into Hawks’ Camp

Even though he’s been already been through three training camps, this year wide-receiver Dustin Zender is a rookie once again.

After transferring from the suspended University of Waterloo football team in June, Zender along with seven of his teammates made their way down University Ave. and became Laurier Golden Hawks. So far, the newest Hawks have had no trouble settling into their first training camp with their new team.

“It’s been great,” said Zender. “We bond during practice, we bond after practice, I don’t think there’s any better way to bond then when you’re sitting in the cold tub and you’re freezing your tail off.”

For Zender and the seven other Warriors-turned-Hawks (defensive backs Patrick McGarry, Mitch Nicholson and Cory Allen, defensive linemen Andrew Heely, Steven Pless and Will Flesher and offensive lineman Matt Vonk) coming to the new camp has been an eye-opening experience.

“It’s like playing for an all-star team,” said Zender. “Every line you go to people just keep getting better and better. It’s great to be here.”

Not only does Zender find himself trying to make a quick adjustment to his new team, he also finds himself in a tough position battle. The Hawks have tremendous depth at receiver, boasting the likes of Alex Anthony, Dillon Heap and Shamawd Chambers.

Despite the fact that he was a provincial all-star in 2008, and played in this year’s East-West Bowl, Zender knows that a starting spot is far from a guarantee.

“The competition’s been really tough. There’s a lot of receivers and they’re all good,” he said. “With so much talent around you, you’ve just got to make sure that when a play comes your way you make the most of the opportunity.”

While transferring to Laurier enabled the eight former Warriors to continue playing, they weren’t the only ones benefiting. The Hawks received a great amount of talent in the group of UW transfers and the incumbent players are more than happy to have them.

“We welcomed them with open arms,” said Hawks’ quarterback Luke Thompson. “They come out here and practice with us, and they’re Golden Hawks…. They’re really good football players too, so that doesn’t hurt any.”

“They’re a bunch of great guys,” added linebacker Giancarlo Rapanaro. “We’re all getting along well, they’re putting in the time, they’re learning and they’ll definitely play a key role for us.”

However, no matter how much talent or experience the new Hawks have, they are still rookies in purple and gold and subject to the full rookie experience.

“I know you have to sing as a rookie,” laughed Zender. “And they’re treating us like rookies, so I’m going to have to sing sometime.”