A few Portage Collegiate Institute athletes are learning what it takes to make it to the pros.
Seven PCI Trojans football players are participating in the Blue Bomber High School Football Showcase, which is being run by Winnipeg Blue Bombers players. Grade 11 student Grayson Pratt says the first week has been great.
"I'm on the U18 team (there's also a U16 team). It's some of the best from Manitoba, all referred by their coaches, in one camp. There are two separate teams (at each age level) a blue team and a gold team. We'll have two weeks of practices, and then we have sort of an all-star game at the Bombers' stadium on May 8th."
PCI's Anthony Costain-Starr, Nathan Woodward, Jesse Shaw, and Pratt are a part of the U18 program, while Sam Hillier, Fasu Koroma, and Deacon O'Ray are involved at the U16 level.
Pratt says they have a total of eight training sessions before the final game on May 7th. He notes getting this opportunity ahead of his senior season is perfect timing.
"It sharpens your skills before the season starts. Everyone is starting off on a clean slate because we haven't had football since the end of fall," Pratt explains. "So, I feel like everyone is working that dust off. It's just fun to play against some of the best players in the province."
He says playing alongside and against so many talented players at once has taught Pratt how to be more aggressive. The Grade 11 student adds when everyone is used to being one of the best players on their team, they have to show what they're capable of whenever possible.
While Pratt is an offensive lineman, the first Bomber he spotted was a receiver.
"It's really cool because we even have a few Bomber players out there coaching for us. I picked Nick Demski out of the crowd right away. That was pretty cool to me," Pratt continues. "Just to be able to learn from pro athletes is awesome because they've done it. They know how to help you get to where they're already at."
Pratt notes he's been making sure to pick up on the mentality of the Blue and Gold.
"The wisdom they have is incredible. It might not even have anything to do with what you're physically doing, it's just the mental understanding of what you should be doing and visualizing how things go on the field. It's more of a mental game than people realize. The knowledge they have really helps your whole game."
The offensive lineman believes it was much easy to play his game with a few familiar faces alongside him.
"Especially when you have someone from your school that's the same position group as you, you know going in that you'll at least be comfortable with one person," says Pratt. "But, even after just a week, it's like we all go to the same school. We're a team already at this point."
The program wraps up on May 7th, where all the players will take to IG Field for the final game.