To say that sports runs in Sam La Roue’s family is something of an understatement.
Sam’s father, Pat La Roue, played football at the University of B.C., following in the footsteps of his own father, Butch La Roue, whose career took him from college ball at Western Michigan to a stint with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League in the mid 1960s.
Sam’s older brother, Francis – nicknamed ‘Butch’ after his grandfather – plays junior ‘B’ lacrosse for the Port Coquitlam Saints and junior ‘B’ hockey for the White Rock Whalers, and his sister, Emily – the oldest of the La Roue siblings – also was a two-sport athlete before enrolling at Montreal’s McGill University and focusing on her studies.
Pat also points out that Sam also has a handful of relatives on his mother’s side – uncles and grandfather – who played hockey and football at the college level.
And then there is Sam, the youngest, who may yet top them all – in sheer volume if nothing else.
Perhaps not surprising considering he grew up in a sports-mad house, the Grade 11 Earl Marriott Secondary student’s athletic calendar is pretty full, 12 months a year.
The 16-year-old plays football and rugby at EMS – and has played basketball, too – played hockey until he was 14, and is also a highly touted lacrosse player, having just completed his midget season with the Semiahmoo Rock association. He’s expecting to be selected – perhaps quite high – in January’s BC Junior Lacrosse League draft.
“We didn’t have time for a lot of family dinners,” he quipped, when asked how his family managed to juggle so many sports schedules.
La Roue is currently in the middle of the high-school football season with the Mariners, where despite only having a few years experience, he has excelled at a variety of skill positions, from quarterback with the junior team, to wide receiver and running back this year with the senior squad, with a little quarterback mixed in for good measure.
“He can play anywhere,” said longtime EMS coach Michael Mackay-Dunn. “He was our most valuable player last year, and this year, he’s one of the biggest parts of our team – one of our top guys.”
Last week, La Roue caught two touchdown passes – 15 and 30 yards, respectively – in a 42-0 win over Eric Hamber Secondary.
Though football runs in his family’s blood, La Roue said it wasn’t until Mackay-Dunn recruited him during his Grade 8 basketball season – “Mac Daddy likes to come around and recruit from other sports,” La Roue laughed – that he decided to step onto the gridiron.
“I was coaching the basketball team, and you’d see him on the court – he just had great body control and strength, even in Grade 8,” Mackay-Dunn explained.
“I’ve coached long enough to know a top player when I see one. It’s easy to spot those kids – it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see how good Sam is. I’ve coached a lot of players over the years, and he’s definitely one of those special athletes.
“I don’t know if he’s the top athlete I’ve ever coached, but he’s pretty darn close.”
On the football field, Mackay-Dunn compares La Roue to another one of his former pupils, Jacob Doerksen, who was one of B.C.’s top football and basketball players at Abbotsford’s Rick Hansen Secondary, where Mackay-Dunn coached before coming to EMS.
Doerksen went on to a university basketball career, eventually playing pro overseas.
“Sam does things that I saw Jacob do back then. Jacob was an incredible athlete – he had huge hands and could catch anything. He’d catch it with one hand – just put his mitt out there and haul in the pass, and Sam is the same,” Mackay-Dunn said. “He’s just wonderful to watch out there.”
Despite his obvious talents on the football field, La Roue admits that, if forced to choose, it’s lacrosse that has always been his top priority.
A long-stick midfielder, La Roue plays both box and field lacrosse, and is hoping to parlay his skills into not only a junior career locally, but a university scholarship, too.
That said, the talented 16-year-old doesn’t seem too keen to give his multi-sport status.
“I wouldn’t shut the door on playing football (after high school) if the opportunity came up, but lacrosse is still my main focus… If I go to school for lacrosse, maybe I’ll find a school that has a football program, too.”
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