Frédéric Plesius is a student of the game of football, and when it came to Thursday night’s Canadian Interuniversity Sport football awards banquet, the 24-year-old linebacker for the Laval Rouge et Or would have preferred to have been elsewhere.
“I’m excited, but at the same time I wish I could watch some tape of McMaster,” Plesius said earlier in the day, referring to the team the Rouge et Or will face Friday night in the Vanier Cup at Rogers Centre.
Good thing Plesius resisted the urge to skip the function and cram for Mac.
The native of Laval, Que., was honoured as winner of the Presidents’ Trophy as the CIS defensive player of the year.
The award is nice, but Plesius will tell you it will pale in comparison to giving the Marauders a bit of payback on Friday night in a Vanier Cup rematch of the two top-rated university programs in the country.
Last year, in a game that became an instant classic, the Marauders blew a 23-point lead and then hung on to earn a 41-38 overtime victory over Laval, a loss that still resonates in the minds of the players.
The Rouge et Or believes it should win every year – and it pretty well nearly does. A victory against the Marauders would be the third national title in five years for the Quebec City institution and a CIS record-setting seventh overall.
The Rouge et Or run what many consider a professional-style football program with a huge budget that allows the team to hold a spring training camp in Florida.
And with all that success there also comes a bit of resentment from other CIS opponents who enjoy nothing more than seeing the big boys being toppled every once in a while.
Friday’s tilt at Rogers Centre will pass as a home game for the Hamilton-based Marauders and the majority of the 30,000-plus who will be on hand will be sure to give Laval a rough ride.
Plesius expects it, saying it will be nothing new.
“Our mentality is us against the world, so it doesn’t really matter to us,” he said. “If we stick together and keep our heads up we should have a pretty good game.
“We feel like we’re under the spotlight every year and everybody wants to bring us down. So everybody’s against us and it really doesn’t matter.”
In his fourth and final season with Laval, Plesius is a rock-solid 6-foot-1, 245-pound linebacker who was taken 10th overall this past season in the Canadian Football League draft by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
So upset was Plesius at last year’s loss to McMaster in the final game he chose to return to play a final season at Laval to try and end his university career on a winning note, surprising even Glen Constantin, the Rouge et Or coach who wasn’t expecting him back.
“We tried to recruit as many linebackers as we could because we knew that if he went to the CFL that he would not come back,” Constantin said. “We had kind of written him off.”
Plesius grew up in Laval and after high school headed off to Baylor Univeristy in Waco, Texas, in 2008, where he was red-shirted for the season.
That didn’t sit easy with Plesius, who returned to Canada to take up a starring role on the Laval defence.
“He’s got good FBI,” proclaimed Mike McCarthy, the former Toronto Argonauts general manager who now scouts for the Montreal Alouettes, about Plesius. “That’s what we call football intelligence.
“He’s an aggressive guy. Rarely do you ever see him standing around. He’s always very active, got his feet moving all the time and has good awareness.”
Laval’s game plan heading into Friday’s game is no secret. Try to contain Kyle Quinlan, the Marauders mobile quarterback who walked off with the Hec Crighton Trophy as the country’s top player.
Easier said than done.
Constantin said the best way to do that is to keep the ball out of Quinlan’s capable hands so Laval’s running game, which has been averaging an astonishing 297 yards in its three postseason games, will be key.
Sophomore Maxime Boutin rambled for 213 yards off 25 carries in a 42-7 shellacking of Acadia in last weekend’s Uteck Bowl.
“I think one of the most important stats for us will be time of possession,” Constantin said. “And obviously establishing a run game is very important.”