Taking Liberties

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:24 PM ET

Garry Parasynchuk hasn't lost track of Jon Hameister-Ries.

Although Hameister-Ries graduated from Strathcona high school almost four years ago, his former coach is still following his incredible football journey.

"God, what a story!" said Parasynchuk.

Hameister-Ries isn't the first local product to play NCAA football, but very few have had his success - winning the recent Liberty Bowl - or have taken his remarkable path.

"It is kind of one of those movie-type stories," continued Parasynchuk.

It seems totally bizarre, but Hameister-Ries didn't start playing football until Grade 12.

From the moment he walked into Parasynchuk's Grade 10 phys-ed class, he was being asked to play the sport, but he didn't care.

"I thought: God what a waste because he had arms as long as his legs and had good footwork," recalled his teacher.

But after nearly two years of prodding, Hameister-Ries finally agreed to show up at football camp. His life has never been the same.

"We were very surprised," said his mother Lois. "(Football) has opened some doors for him."

FIRST MAJOR DOOR OPENED

With Hameister-Ries starring at tight end and defensive end for undefeated Strathcona in the fall of 2002, the first major door opened in the playoffs against Lethbridge, which boasted stud Jeff Perrett.

"Jeff was getting recruited to the University of Tulsa and we played against him in the provincial championship," recalled Hameister-Ries.

Being in the right place at the right time, Hameister-Ries was discovered and was offered a stunning five-year, $125,000 US scholarship.

But unlike Perrett, life hasn't always been easy for Hameister-Ries at Tulsa. While Perrett has started every year, he was buried on the sidelines for two straight years. In fact, he didn't play a single down for two seasons.

"I was working hard in practice, but not seeing the field. That was tough," said Hameister-Ries, who considered quitting "all the time."

But that tune has changed because he is now a major player. A change to the offensive line this year put him in the starting line-up for every game as he helped the offence carry the Tulsa Hurricanes to the Liberty Bowl.

"It was amazing," said Hameister-Ries.

"It was kind of a dream.

"We had a great year running the football, had a great passing game and won the Conference U.S.A. championship."

THE LATEST CHAPTER

That victory put the Hurricanes in the Liberty Bowl on New Year's Eve in front of 54,894 fans in Memphis, where Tulsa beat Fresno State 31-24, thanks to 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.

It's just the latest chapter in Hameister-Ries' remarkable football story.

The big question now is: What's in the next chapter? With another year of college eligibility, he could stay at Tulsa.

But he could soon be discovered by a CFL team, as every club is searching for non-import offensive linemen.

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PROFILE

NAME: Jon Hameister-Ries

AGE: 21

HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6-foot-6/300

BORN: Edmonton

HIGH SCHOOL: Strathcona - graduated 2002

COLLEGE: University of Tulsa - junior

MAJOR: Management

QUIRKY STAT: He has only played two football seasons in his life and has a startling 20-4-1 record in games he starts.


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