At 6’4” tall, St. Paul Regional High School student Nathan Gardiner physically stands above most students and staff at the school. But as an athlete, Gardiner is also something of a standout.
Five years ago, Gardiner started his football career with the St. Paul Bengals, moving up through the years to play with the St. Paul Lions at the high school level. And in his Grade 12 year, Gardiner, a defensive end, was recognized as one of the St. Paul Lions’ most valuable players.
Most recently, Gardiner has made a push to play football beyond the high school level, and he has been successful. A couple weeks ago, the local athlete took part in tryouts for the Edmonton Wildcats junior football team.
Going into tryouts, Gardiner knew that if he played football after high school, he wanted it to be with one of the best teams out there, and the Edmonton Wildcats do have an impressive history.
According to the team’s website, after an undefeated season, the team made an appearance in the national final in Nanaimo, B.C., in 2006, where the Wildcats lost in a close game against the Vancouver Island Raiders. In 2007, the Wildcats finished at the top of the Prairie Football Conference, but were defeated in the final.
“It was tough – a lot more physical, faster, bigger guys,” says Gardiner of his experience at tryouts. But, after the three days, it was certainly worth the effort when coaches approached Gardiner and told him they liked what they saw. Coaches asked Gardiner to come back in the fall and even told him that he might have a chance at getting on the team’s travelling roster, where he’d be guaranteed to play.
Growing up in St. Paul, Gardiner would often watch the high school football players practicing on the field. When he really started watching the sport, it “just pulled me in,” he says. And now, Gardiner will have another five years to prove himself and hopefully make it to the next level.
Also, while he plays with the Edmonton Wildcats, Gardiner will be studying at the University of Alberta in the faculty of physical education and recreation.
Gardiner credits much of what he learned about the sport to his football coaches in St. Paul. He admits that without their help, he most likely wouldn’t have reached this level.
Coach John Lumby says it’s great to see Gardiner take advantage his ability and move on to the next level.
“He’s always been a strong leader and a guy who’s played with a lot of heart,” says Lumby, adding, “We know he can handle the next step, or further.”
Overall, football has helped Gardiner mature and become the person he is today. And making the Edmonton Wildcats team certainly “felt good,” he says.