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#UofTBackToSchool: Football goals and academic dreams

Griffin Assance-Goulais, a first-year life sciences student, says he dreams of playing football for the Varsity Blues and becoming a doctor (photo by Hannah James)

When you’re shy, sometimes you need a little push.

That’s what Griffin Assance-Goulais learned when his younger brother lovingly shoved him in front of University of Toronto's Varsity Blues defensive line coach Joe Cappiello at a tryout camp in Oshawa, Ont., and said, ‘Hey coach, this is my brother Griffin and he wants to go to your school.'" 

He got noticed. It was, Assance-Goulais says, exactly what he needed to pursue his dream of studying science and playing football at U of T.

“When I want something, I want it,” says Assance-Goulais, an accomplished athlete who competed in high school sports, including javelin, shotput and football.

As a high school student, he also took part in two of U of T’s programs for teens, which he says helped crystallize his goals. He spent one week last year at the Faculty of Medicine's Youth Summer Program and prior to that spent March break at the SOAR Aboriginal Youth Gathering.

Read more about U of T's SOAR program for teens

Since then, Assance-Goulais, who is Anishinaabe and whose home community is Chimnissing First Nation on Christian Island – a place he describes as “the most beautiful place on Earth” – has decided he wants to pursue medicine, with the hopes of eventually working in his community.

His first step: starting in the life sciences program at U of T and having "a dream come true" – signing a letter of intent with the Varsity Blues football team. As the New College student adjusts to life on U of T's downtown campus, he is also training four to six days a week with varsity coaches at the Goldring Centre so he can join Varsity Blues veteran players in their strict training regimen.

Griffin Assance-Goulais, No. 83, playing with the North Bay Bulldogs (photo courtesy of Griffin Assance-Goulais)

Greg Gary, Varsity Blues head coach and manager of football operations, says Assance-Goulais's dogged persistence helped the young football player.

The coach decided to invite Assance-Goulais to U of T for a tryout and a tour of the university. “We hadn’t seen him play a lot of football at that point, but once we invited him down and saw him play, we thought he would be a really good fit for the program,” he says. 

Photo of letter-signing

Assance-Goulais signed the letter of intent, with Gary at his side, in the spring (see photo, left).

Gary says Assance-Goulais is coming from a smaller centre for football that hasn't had the same calibre of competition as some larger centres, “Physically he can play the game. It’s just a matter of developing him.” 

For Assance-Goulais, his ultimate goal is to become a doctor because he loves helping others and wants to work in his community.

“I want to be better than me five minutes ago, better than me a week ago, better than a month ago,” says Assance-Goulais. “That goes for everything – football and, above all else, for academics."