Jas Dhillon believes that perseverance and hard work is the key to achieving your dream. “If you really want something to happen, you’ve got to make it happen,” he affirms. This 25-year-old Surrey native definitely knows what he’s talking about. On May 13, Dhillon’s life-long dream of playing pro-football became reality when he was selected by the Toronto Argonauts in the 2014 Canadian Football League Draft.
The 14 years of training, countless practices and plain old hard work paid off in the end when the 6’3, 295 lbs. offensive linesman was selected in the third round of the draft and 21st overall.
“It was pretty intense,” Dhillon says of draft day. “My house was packed with family and close friends. Once I got the call from Toronto, the entire house just exploded. It was actually a pretty awesome moment, [I’m] going to remember that for the rest of my life.”
Soon after this life-changing phone call, Dhillon flew out to York University in Toronto to join the rest of his new teammates on the Toronto Argonauts for the pre-season training camp. Training camps are a period of evaluation for younger players and a chance to acclimatize themselves to the new plays and members.
“It’s definitely a step higher than university football,” Dhillon shares. “You need to be able to think on your feet, your reaction time has to be ridiculously fast and you have to be able to make the right call to adjust to the type of defence you’re looking at.” He mentions that he was playing centre – a complex position which came with a lot more responsibility. “It is like preparing for a final exam because you have to know everything, inside and out.”
As Dhillon talks about his experience in training camp, his passion for football comes across, loud and clear. So it’s a bit of surprise to learn that he wasn’t always such a fan of the sport. “I grew up watching the BC lions but I was never a football fan. I never really understood the sport and to be honest, I didn’t really like it, until I started playing,” he admits.
As a child, Dhillon preferred soccer, a game he played for over eight years. “I was pretty good at [soccer] but I was pretty big too. So I was trying to get into different avenues at that point, like wrestling,” says Dhillon. It wasn’t until his new neighbours suggested he try out for football that he really considered the sport. At their suggestion, he took up football in Grade 6 and has been playing ever since.
After high school, Dhillon played junior football with the Langley Rams, before joining the Regina Rams for a season at the University of Regina. He then transferred to the University of British Columbia (UBC), where he played three seasons with the UBC Thunderbirds as an offensive linesman.
Being a collegiate athlete was no easy feat; Dhillon had to work hard to maintain the perfect balance between his schoolwork, social life and football. “If you’re slipping in school, you’re not going to play, it’s that simple.” He explains how football players at most universities need to maintain a certain grade point average or letter grade, or they are not allowed to step onto the field. This meant fitting in study time on top of the six to eight hours of football training each day. “I think there’s a common misconception that football players get away with a lot, but I think there is more pressure on us,” Dhillon says. “There’s a lot of hard work that you have to put into being a collegiate athlete, that’s for sure.”
Dhillon also had to overcome challenges on the field during his time at UBC. After playing defence his whole life, in his final year he found himself starting as an offensive lineman – a position which was completely new to him. “There was a huge transition period that I had to go through in order to get used to playing such a different position,” he says. However, he is extremely grateful for his time on the UBC Thunderbirds as they taught him to adapt to different situations and helped him grow as a player and person.
Currently, Dhillon is on the Toronto Argonaut’s Practice Roster. This gives him a chance to further develop his skills before taking a shot at the starting line-up. “It is a true blessing for me,” he says. “I am now more motivated than ever to prove how well I can do.”
For all the young athletes who dream of playing professionally one day, Dhillon has some sound advice: “If you want it long enough and hard enough, you’re going to make it happen. There are going to be tough days, but there are going to be really good days too. You’ve got to stick to the grind.”