Westshore Rebels quarterback Colby Henkel has been through a personal storm and is hoping for calmer conditions today when he leads the Rebels into a B.C. Football Conference game against the Kamloops Broncos at 4 p.m. at Starlight Stadium.
“The last two years have been the most challenging of my life,” he said.
Even with the loss of the 2020 season to the pandemic, most athletes could still say they at least had 2019. But Henkel couldn’t even point to that as the Westshore quarterback was lost for the BCFC season to a shoulder injury above his throwing arm in the first game of 2019. Back-up quarterback Shawn Lal stepped up well for the Rebels that year. Henkel watched from the sidelines with his 21-year-old year season lost.
That was followed by the cancelled 2020 pandemic season and the loss of his final year of junior football eligibility. But Henkel and the other 22-year-olds from last year were saved by a Canadian Junior Football League ruling allowing an extra 23-year-old season of eligibility this year for the 22-year-olds who were signed for the 2020 season.
Henkel wants to make the most of the opportunity.
“I don’t know if this is the last ride or not, but I’m just going to have fun with it,” he said.
“I have been rehabbing the shoulder and it’s near 100 percent with few if any problems.”
It shows as Henkel has completed 36 of 66 passes for a 54 per cent completion rate and 458 yards gained with two touchdown passes over two games.
“Football has been a huge part of my life and allowed me to travel across the country.”
It has taken the Edmonton-raised pivot to Windsor, Ont., where he played one season for the Lancers in U Sports and now to the Island in junior football. Included in his travels were two seasons in Kamloops playing in the BCFC for the Broncos, which makes today’s game especially meaningful for him.
Henkel was better known for basketball in high school at Memorial Composite in the Alberta capital, but also played football there and decided the latter was the better sporting path to pursue.
“I was never the most talented guy in high school football and had to work my way up from the bottom,” said Henkel.
The Broncos and Rebels are both 0-2 heading into today’s critical encounter in Langford. The Rebels began the season ranked No. 3 in the country before an opening blowout loss against the Okanagan Sun, which was followed by a tough 22-17 loss last weekend against the Fraser Valley Huskers, after leading for most of the game.
Henkel lists his quarterbacking role model as Peyton Manning: “That’s because of the way he carried himself and I admired his leadership ability.”
Henkel knows the Rebels will be looking for that kind of leadership from him today.
Meanwhile, the Vancouver Islander Raiders (1-1) meet the Okanagan Sun (2-1) today at 5:30 p.m. on the Nanaimo District Senior Secondary field.