He’s six-foot-one, 300-pounds, 35, a 12-year CFL veteran, a league all-star and two-time Grey Cup champion with his hometown B.C. Lions.
Yet as a child, Angus Reid would tell his family and anybody who listened that all he wanted to be when he grew up was the world’s best fire truck.
Yes, a fire truck, not a fireman.
“In Grade 1, when I was six-years-old, I weighed 100 pounds and my cheeks would get red no matter what I did, so I had a bright red face and I looked like a tomato,” said Reid during a presentation to the students and staff at Vernon’s BX Elementary School Wednesday morning.
“I told everyone I was going to be a fire truck, and my family and friends just laughed. But I was going to be the world’s best fire truck and I was willing to work at it. I drove everybody crazy practising my siren, and I’d take big gulps of water and go around spraying everything. I wanted to help and protect people.”
And that was part of the two-fold message that Reid delivered to the students.
He is helping and protecting people, like a fire truck. Reid explained to the students his job, as centre for the Lions, is to protect his teammates, namely the quarterback, receivers and running back, and open holes for the running backs by “pushing big people out of the way.”
To demonstrate how, even at six-foot-one, 300-pounds, he has to go up against guys that are taller than him by pushing them out of the way, Reid called up Grade 3 student Tyler Hamilton, nine, who weighs, oh, 70 pounds and is about four-feet tall in his shoes, which he literally came out of trying to push Reid about a foot on the school gym floor.
“It was fun and a little bit hard pushing him,” smiled Hamilton, who was adorned in Reid’s 2006 Grey Cup championship uniform and – briefly – Reid’s helmet.
“The uniform came down to my ankles and I couldn’t see out of the helmet.”
Reid also explained to the students that if he was to meet his original dream of wanting to be the world’s best fire truck, and then a goal of being a professional athlete, he was going to have to work at it.
“I started football when I was in Grade 11 and the first year I was a bench warmer. I never got on the playing field until Grade 12,” said Reid, accompanied on his trip by his bride of a year, Jennifer. “But I kept working at it. Don’t be embarrassed by your dreams, and don’t be shy to try them. If I was shy, I wouldn’t have played 12 years for the B.C. Lions.”
Reid was presented with gifts from his three nephews – Roan, Liam and Sean Reid, who are students at BX, and where his sister-in-law, Kari, is a teacher. In return, Reid presented the school with a photo of inside B.C. Place Stadium, signed by the Lions team.
The family affair continued Thursday when Reid was introduced to the staff and student body at Fulton Secondary School by the principal, his older brother, Malcolm, who told a story of how his younger sibling loved to draw.
“He was your typical artist, he’d draw like crazy then rip it up halfway through and start over,” said Malcolm, adorned in a T-shirt Angus drew and designed featuring the Lions’ offensive line.
“One day, I looked over his shoulder and instead of working on another masterpiece, he had signed his name over and over and over. When I asked him what are you doing, he pointed to his signature and said, ‘Malcolm, one day I’m going to be really famous and people are going to want my autograph.’”
Angus, who hosts a radio talk show and writes a newspaper column, re-iterated to the high school students about setting goals and not giving up.
He relayed his own account of setting a dubious provincial record of surviving eight days with a ruptured appendix before going to the hospital – “I didn’t want to miss basketball practice,” he said.
After several weeks in the hospital and not getting better, Reid was ready to pack it in until his mom took him for a four-hour walk around the hospital.
“She said, ‘Get up, now,’” said Reid. “And this was at 2:30 in the morning. I started getting better and six days later, I was out of the hospital. If I had wanted to quit, it would have all been over.”
Reid would have a recurrence of stomach issues that kept him out of the Simon Fraser University football lineup for three years. He recovered again, returned for his final year, and was drafted fourth overall by the Toronto Argonauts, who cut him one week into training camp, stating they had made a mistake in drafting him.
He ended up with the Montreal Alouettes, who traded Reid to his hometown Lions.