No experience, no problem.
Oliver’s Jamie Fortune has learned a lot about playing football with the Okanagan Sun.
Fortune has gone from playing basketball and hockey and is getting educated on how to be an offensive lineman and he’s getting more comfortable each day. It has been a long road since being nervous at the Sun’s spring camp.
“It was a completely new experience,” said Fortune of training camp. “I think I did pretty well for the fact I never played football before.”
Since making the Sun, which is 6-3 in the B.C. Football Conference, Fortune has been the field four nights a week. He also hits the gym twice a week. The challenge has been to keep up his energy levels.
“The season is such a grind. It’s not something I’m used to,” said Fortune, when the Sun was 6-0 at the time. “Tough to find the motivation or the drive. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of it.”
Fortune caught the Suns’ radar while playing high school basketball. The coach on the other side was the Suns’ special teams coach. After the game, he approached Fortune and said to give him a call if he ever wanted to play football. Fortune followed up and started working out in April. Fortune said offensive line coaches Bryan Theissen and Ray Wheatley have been awesome. Fortune listens to the veterans who have taken him under their wing.
“If I don’t understand something, I’m not afraid to ask these people questions,” Fortune said.
One of those teammates is Quinn Horton, who is affiliated with the Calgary Stampeders. Fortune said it’s great learning from him. One thing Fortune has noticed about the offensive/defensive lineman is his footwork.
“For a big guy, he’s so smooth on the field,” said Fortune. “And poise. He’s a very calm guy.”
Sun head coach Ben Macauley has praised Fortune’s efforts.
“He’s hanging in there and he’s learning very quickly,” said Macauley. “He’s got a great attitude.”
Macauley explained to Fortune that it would be very difficult to get playing time on the current roster, which includes Rashaun Simonise — who saw preseason action with the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.
“For him to come in with no formal football experience, and progress the way he has is very impressive,” said Macauley.
Injuries would be one of the reasons to change the Suns’ plan with Macauley.
“Where he has come in a few months, we feel pretty confident that he could handle himself when he gets the opportunity,” said Macauley. “We want him to go in and have success, not just go in and get his butt kicked. When we’re at that point when we feel like he’s going to go in and have success, then that will be when he goes in.”
Although Fortune is a rookie to the game, he has seen plenty of football on TV.
“Me and my dad (Tom) are both pretty big B.C. Lions fans,” he said. “I just liked watching it. There is a big difference between watching it and trying to make it happen.”
Fortune’s goal is to earn a scholarship to a Canadian Interuniversity Sport team.
Macauley likes Fortune’s upside and sees earning a scholarship as a possibility. Once this season is over, he will have to put in the work for next season to get faster and stronger. Doing that, Macauley said Fortune could battle for a starting job.
“We’re pretty confident that he’s going to be successful,” he said. “He’s fit right in. Right from the get-go they (teammates) understood, some of them coming with more experience, that he was going to need a little extra encouragement to stick with it. They have all been really supportive of him. Likewise, whether he is in the game or not, he’s picking other guys up and encouraging them too. That’s what we want to see.”
Macauley likes Fortune’s “pro size” of 6-foot-5, 275 pounds, along with his long arms and great feet. One of the first things the Sun look for with linemen is their feet.
“I know he’s got basketball and hockey experience, so he’s an athlete. It’s not enough just to be a big guy,” said Macauley. “A common misconception that just because you are big, you can play. He’s kind of got the whole athleticism package to go along with the size. That makes him very valuable.”