Varsity Blues football players Kyle Draga and D. J. Sackey are part of “the Freak Squad”, a name only earned by Varsity Blues football players at UTM. Weighing in at 370 pounds, Draga stands at 6’3”, while Sackey weighs 305 pounds and is 6’4” tall. Needless to say, these big men on campus are hard to miss.
Draga and Sackey have played for U of T for the past four years.
“When we play at the Varsity Stadium in Toronto, it feels like we are in the heart of the city, and when we play games it feels like we are representing Toronto,” Draga says.
With Draga and Sackey coming out of high school as rookies and top recruits, the two have been friends since their first year at UTM.
“We also were majoring in sociology and we’re in almost all the same classes, so it was nearly impossible not to become friends,” says Draga. “Playing together also strengthened our friendship. Going against one another each day at practice, we learned each others’ weaknesses and strengths and helped each other harness our strengths and correct those weaknesses.”
Maintaining their size on- and off-season requires a lot of hard work and dedication in the gym and the kitchen.
When asked about their daily nutrition and calorie intake, Draga says, “I like to carb up the day before a game [with] pasta and bread. But before a game, I usually only stick with proteins like eggs and fruits.”
Sackey, who first started playing football in grade 10, says he also overloads on carbs and proteins for energy.
“Games are usually three hours long, so I need to make sure I have enough in the tank. I also drink lots of water a few days before actual game day. Staying well hydrated is critical,” he says.
Each of their daily calorie intakes is around 4000; meals consist of eggs and oatmeal in the morning, lean chicken, green vegetables, and whole grains for lunch, steak and veggies for dinner, and protein shakes throughout the day in between meals. Draga admits, however, that after games, he “tend[s] to eat a bit unhealthy” by joining teammates at fast food restaurants for postgame celebrations.
As for in the gym, you may have seen the two training in the High Performance Centre at the RAWC with their fellow teammates. The boys train four to five times a week, with sessions lasting up to two hours.
They begin with a warm-up consisting of dynamic stretches and foam-rolling followed by some lightweight reps. Then come “the big-boy weights”.
“This is when the blood, sweat and sometimes tears come out. Everyone pushes each other to the limit, and there is a lot of screaming and aggressive grunts that take place,” Draga says.
Their lifts consist of powerlifting exercises such as bench press, squats, deadlifts, power cleans, and snatches; they have a very strenuous and demanding off-season strength and conditioning program.
For Draga and Sackey, being both an athlete and UTM student isn’t easy.
“Now that I’m in my fourth year, I’m used to it, but at first it was tough. You have your classes throughout the day, then you head downtown for meetings and practice,” says Sackey, adding that by the time he gets home after the long commute back, “I’m drained, but I have to get the readings and assignments done”.
The Blues finished their season with a record of 3-5, missing the playoffs by a game.
As for the boys’ most memorable moment playing for the Varsity Blues, Draga recalls his first-year victory against the York Lions.
“It felt as though the whole city was cheering for us,” he says.
As for Sackey, the most memorable moments are during training camp.
“We spend two weeks at the end of summer battling it out at practice early in the morning for hours. After, we spend more time together cracking jokes, locker room dance-offs, [and] watching WordStar Vine compilations together,” he says.
With two years of eligibility remaining, the boys begin to think about playing pro in the future.
“Football is an opportunity. It’s a chance to take something that I started playing for fun and make a living from it. I started playing football when I was in grade 10. Coaches asked me to come out for the team because of my size, and I’ve been playing ever since,” Sackey says.
As for Draga, he says if he doesn’t end up playing at the pro level, he’ll take up coaching.
“I’d like to coach younger kids and work my way up to coaching a university program,” he says.
Be on the look out for the big men on campus. Feel free to introduce yourself. They may appear frightening, but looks can be deceiving.