Aaron Wheaton, a 6’6” 305-pound offensive lineman from Ajax, has been fighting in the trenches for the Varsity Blues football program for the past five years. This past May, his dream of joining a CFL roster came true when the new expansion team, the Ottawa REDBLACKS, selected him 28th overall in the 2014 CFL Draft.

Wheaton’s first experience with football didn’t come until grade 11, when he tried out for the senior boys’ football team at J. Clarke Richardson C.I. Being a bigger kid than most others his age, he quickly excelled in the sport. As his talent grew, so did his passion for the game. “It became important because it was something I felt I could thrive in. I always liked the idea of being the best I could be at something,” says Wheaton.

Wheaton was one of only a few freshmen to get an opportunity to start for the Varsity Blues. “I was able to come in and play right away. When I came in, the right tackle from the season before I was picked up by the [Winnipeg] Blue Bombers, so there was an opening for me to compete for a spot my rookie year,” he says. Since the beginning of his first year in 2010, Wheaton has been an excellent contributor to the team’s growing success, and credits his opportunity early in that rookie campaign: “It helped me gain a lot of experience; I was getting live reps against other teams.”

Compared to all the CIS training camps he’s taken part in, Wheaton claims that his training camp with the REDBLACKS was something he had never experienced before. “Mentally gruelling. It’s different than a CIS camp where I would take the majority of the reps,” he says. “Though it wasn’t physically taxing, mentally it was a lot more than I had experienced before.”

Wheaton made it to the end of his first CFL training camp, but he didn’t end up making the final roster. He’s been using his last year of CIS eligibility this year with the Varsity Blues in preparation for next summer’s training camp with the REDBLACKS or whichever CFL team decides to take a look at him. “Right now, I’m property of the REDBLACKS and they can claim me after my CIS season. If they don’t, I’ll happily go somewhere else if that’s a possibility,” he says.

Wheaton’s experience at training camp has motivated him to return to that position in summer of 2015, and this time prepared him for what to expect. “My goals are pretty limited right now; I’d just like to make a CFL squad more than anything,” he says.

Thinking about what brought him to where he is now, Wheaton credits his father with having a big influence on his life. He has taken up his father’s outlook on work and transferred it over to how he treats the game of football. “My father worked very hard to get where he is today,” says Wheaton. “He’s someone who worked his way up through the years, always doing things the right way, never taking shortcuts.”

Wheaton is as focussed off the field as he is on it. His main goal right now is to graduate with a degree in political science and city studies. “Graduating is my biggest goal. I’m three credits away,” he says. Wheaton says that other career paths that interest him are working with the CSIS or policing.

At the moment, Wheaton dons number 51 for the Varsity Blues as a bruiser whose role is to protect the quarterback at all costs. He brings experience and skill to the Blues, and they have more reason to hope for the playoffs for the first time in 20 years. “This year we have a great shot at making the playoffs, and it would be awesome to be on the team the year that we accomplish that feat,” says Wheaton.

The Blues can be seen in action on Saturday, September 27 when they host the Ottawa Gee-Gees in Varsity Stadium at 1 p.m.