DT Ronnie Thiessen “plugs gaps like a rabid junkyard dog”

At 18, defensive tackle, Ronnie Thiessen, has played football for half of his life. He was first coached his 3-pt stance at nine years old in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Thiessen started with the Kinsmen youth football league then spent his junior and freshman year with the Aden Bowman Collegiate Bears.

During his time with the Bears, Thiessen began drifting down a path which all too often lands young men in jail. His parents approached the Bears coaches for help, and with their support and encouragement Thiessen’s focus switched from criminality to football.

“I had coaches who understood what I was going through, football changed me from there. I escaped through it, training or on the field. The easiest way for me to escape from reality; to take me away from things I don’t particularly like, is through football.”

Thiessen moved to St. John, New Brunswick for his sophomore season and was relieved to find out St. John High had a program. Still dealing with the shock of moving from his home on the Prairies to a Maritime port city, Thiessen’s life was again impacted by the game.

“I knew nobody when when I moved here, literally my first time in the guidance counsellor office, the whole team lined up and shook my hand. They made me feel like family the second I walked into that school, I’d never felt so at home.”

Thiessen has a manic commitment and passion for the game.

“Practice is the most important thing, thats the time I take most seriously besides the game to better myself as a player and a teammate and a leader on the team. I never want to sit one out if sick or injured,” he explained. “I don’t like watching the team go through what I can’t with them. I always wish I could be in there doing what I have to do and grinding it out with them.”

With this attitude and a solid camp, Thiessen earned a starting spot on his new team, the St. John Grayhounds.

Thiessen was a fixture on the Hounds defensive line in his senior season. He speaks of the position like an academic, and plays it with a relentlessly violent tenacity. At 5’10 and 235-pounds, Thiessen plugs gaps like a rabid junkyard dog, and pursues plays at tactful angles. Thiessen also took reps at fullback, transitioning his knack for contact through lead blocking.

Thiessen trained and played with the intent of being recruited by U Sports or an ACAA program. He dreamed of returning home to play with the University of Saskatchewan, but would have moved anywhere to extend his career. Toward the end of the season, Thiessen had not heard from any schools and quickly came to peace with his back up plan.

“Football is my priority, but I’d decided if I wasn’t able to play I’d go straight into the military, it’s not the greatest plan in the world, but it’s one or the other.”

Thiessen and the Grayhounds played CFC50 ranked Tantramar Titans in the New Brunswick’s semi final in Sackville, NB. Thiessen went into the game aware it could be his last.

In his final four quarters, Thiessen never took a play off, battling against the Titan’s massive and mobile front five. Despite the pounding he took, Thiessen dug in and returned fire with a feverish intensity.

Titan guard, Ryan Cadman, recalls playing against Thiessen. “You can tell he takes serious pride in being a good player. He knows how to get aggressive, he’s really tough and plays gritty,” says Cadman.

Of all the abuse he gave and took, nothing hurt as bad as when he boarded the bus and absorbed the realization he had played his last game of football. What had started on the Great Plains had ended on the Tantramar Marsh.

“It was devastating, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to play the one sport that I loved ever again. It was awful,” he exclaimed. “I’d been playing half my life, and knowing that it’s just gone, and not knowing how, or if I can fix it. I didn’t know what I would do without it.”

Prior to enlisting, Thiessen was informed some of his credits did not transfer from Saskatchewan, and as a result, he would be required to attend another year of school, as an eligible aged player.

“I was very happy, I have an opportunity not many others have. But under the circumstances I’m not sure many people would want to go through it,” he said.

Head Coach Dave Grandy was also happy with his defensive tackle’s return. “It’s a huge part of our team coming back. He’s a hard worker and is dedicated to his team; a real leader,” Coach Grandy said.

Thiessen re-focused his sights from the Canadian Forces to his first love; football. He has a regimen of weight training, running and field work consisting of speed, endurance, and agility drills. Aiming to improve his mental game, he studies film and watches videos on anything related to improving his game.

Thiessen hopes his off-season conditioning and improving on his weaknesses throughout the season will gain the attention of a next level program. Although he still dreams of playing with the Huskies, he would consider playing anywhere.

Should Thiessen not have the chance to play beyond this year, his intent to enlist remains steadfast. If he approaches soldiering the way he does football, Thiessen will be an asset to the Canadian Forces.

Thiessen’s future beyond this year will take him down one of two paths, each requiring recruitment. Whether he plays beyond next season or not, Thiessen, like anyone who’s ever played, will one day again play his last game. Having endured this once, Thiessen has a plan for the next time.

“There’s life after football, if you love something that much you have to learn to let it go, it’s something you’ve got to do.”

Ronnie Thiessen
5’10, 235lbs
Defensive Tackle, Fullback

Team(s): Aden Bowman Collegiate Bears, St. John Grayhounds
Official Visits: none
Unofficial Visits: none
Consideration: University of Saskatchewan, St. John Sea Wolves, open
Commitment: none
Class: 2018

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