Three top-level Lord Tweedsmuir football players signed with three distinguished Ontario universities on Thursday.
The senior students — Kojo Odoom, Braeden Hutchinson and Addison Sadler — all made Canada Football Chat’s list of top 100 prospects in the country. And that achievement doesn’t come without putting in the time. For these players, it took five years of dedicated work, both on the field and in the classroom.
The April 11 signing ceremony was led by coach Kurt Thornton, who introduced the three players while Kojo, Braeden and Addison posed with signing papers.
Three talented football players from Lord Tweedsmuir signed letters of intent today with universities across Canada. Coach Kurt Thornton stands with Kojo Odoom (Western University), Braeden Hutchinson (University of Windsor) and Addison Sadler (McMaster University) as they sign. pic.twitter.com/DhJOZ4t8V1
— Cloverdale Reporter (@CloverdaleNews) April 11, 2019
When the Reporter caught up to the young athletes following the signing, all three said that what they were looking forward to the most about the fall was getting back to playing football.
Braeden, who tore his ACL during spring scrimmage last year, is particularly looking forward to returning the field. He’s been working consistently to get back out there and has hit “the last stretch” in his recovery, he said.
Coach Thornton said Braeden’s recruitment — despite missing out on a Grade 12 season due to the injury — points to how strong his Grade 11 performance was.
For the past year, Braeden turned his focus to recovery, and to schoolwork, according to Thornton. “Brady really used the time off from football to focus on school, and he did better in school this past year than he’s ever done. That made him recruitable.”
“That’s the key here that sometimes kids don’t see. You don’t get recruited for university if you’re just a good football player,” said Thornton. “You have to be able to do the school[work]. That’s a big part of the reason these kids were recruited the way they were.”
On Thursday, Braeden signed with the University of Windsor. It was the right choice for him, he explained, because they seem to value him as a future feature running back.
“He has an opportunity there,” Thornton agreed. “Their starting running back is going into his last year, so I think they have a plan for Brady. That’s a big piece of it. Kids want to go where they’re wanted.”
The environment and the team culture also appealed. “The coaches are nice — they’re also brand new. They just came from Western,” said Braeden. “So they’re in the same situation as me. Fresh and ready to just play.”
The strength of the academic program influenced his decision as well, as Windsor is well-known for its kinesiology program, which Braeden plans to study.
For Addison, McMaster University was an easy choice.
“As soon as I got there, I loved the feel of the university. I was really welcomed,” he said. “It’s like one big family, they all support each other.”
Former Tweedsmuir teammate Michael Hampton plays for McMaster and was able to take time to tour Addison around campus. “He showed me the real side of it,” he said. Hamilton, Ont., is “an iron city, very blue collar. I really like that feeling.”
Addison had never played football before he came to Lord Tweedsmuir, said Thornton. “He was a big kid walking around the halls in Grade 8 and a coach pulled him aside and said, ‘Hey. Come play football.’”
“In Grade 11 he was a conference all star and a member of Team BC,” said Thornton. “He was one of the top defensive players for Team BC in the summer and that kind of put him out there.”
“And now he’s going to be a university football player,” said Thornton.
Narrowing down a choice of school was much more difficult for Kojo. He only settled on his final choice — Western University — a couple days ago, he told the Reporter. What it came down to, he said, was that of his options, “Western seems to have bigger plans for me.”
When he went for a campus visit in late fall of 2018, he “loved it.” One of his former Tweedsmuir teammates, Derek Best, plays out there. “He took me under his wing for a little visit and introduced me to everything,” he said.
Kojo, who was name B.C.’s defensive player of the year in 2018, “is one of the top recruited players in the country,” said coach Kurt Thornton. “He started to receive scholarship offers before the season started, based on his Grade 11 year.”
Western’s football team is “a perennial powerhouse,” said Thornton. “They’re a really, really strong program and the school is one of the top schools in Canada, too.”
For Kojo, who plans to study psychology, the smaller class sizes and more personable approach that the university’s affiliate campus King’s College offers was also a draw.
All three Tweedsmuir football players will fly to Ontario in August, to prepare for the start of their first semester of university and get to work at football training camps.