August 7, 2020

Martin Bédard spares a thought for players of the Connecticut Huskies

The long snapper Martin Bédard spared a thought for the players of the Huskies when the University of Connecticut decided to cancel its 2020 football season amid growing concerns surrounding Covid-19.

He wore the team’s uniform from 2006 to 2008 and couldn’t help but sympathize with the athletes. “it must be a tough pill to swallow for the guys. They train all summer to get ready for the season and they won’t have the opportunity to play,” says Martin Bédard.

The 36-year old player will never forget his time at his alma mater. This is where he developed lifelong friendships, but more importantly, it’s where he learned life and discipline, there he became a responsible man and a great football player.

Martin had just left for Connecticut in spring when his brother Mathieu had a brush with death. He had to fight for his life after undergoing surgery for a cancerous tumor in his sacrum — a bone in the lower part of the spine near the sciatic nerve — but he made it through. Martin Bédard got close to losing a part of him. The shock was hard to stomach, and he seriously considered coming back home for good.

Alone in a new country, in a new town, facing a higher caliber of play, having to adapt to a faster game where the opponents leave marks when they hit…Bédard feels as if it’s him against the world. It’s not without any fear or concern that he moved south of the border. At Storrs, he feels far from his hometown of Vanier in Québec where he grew up.

He barely speaks English and communicating with his coaches is a challenge he has to battle daily. The young man has undeniable talent, but the language barrier can quickly become a big hurdle. Bédard has to observe others to understand the plays and to comprehend what the coaches are asking from the players.

The day before putting on the Huskies jersey and stepping on the field for his collegiate game, destiny hits once again. He learns that his mother, his confidante and best friend, just lost her battle with cancer. The young man is completely devastated….and knows that in less than 24 hours, he’s going to have to put up another fight, on a football field this time.

On this day, more than 40,000 fans are in the stands cheering for the Huskies. Bédard wonders…Fans will be eager to see the newcomer that the media have been talking about so much since the beginning of camp. The guy who needs an interpreter during interviews, who only speaks French, cannot afford to make any mistakes and will need to put his sadness away, and quickly! He received a scholarship from the Huskies and will need to show off his talent….

Before the game, sitting in front of his locker, the young football player sees his career flash before his eyes. He remembers all the sacrifices he’s made to receive the much-awaited offer from this prestigious University. He remembers the countless hours spent in dark and cold gyms lifting iron until he had no more energy left in the tank. He remembers the nights he had to stay home while his friends were out partying. He thinks about the friends and family he left behind in Québec. He knows that he has a once in a lifetime opportunity and that many young men would give an arm to be in his shoes. He rolls up his sleeves and decides to play the game for his mom. He walks into his coach’s office and tells him he’s going to take part in the battle.

“It was a strange feeling. On one hand, I was mourning I had just lost a big part of myself, and at the same time, I was living my childhood dream of playing in the NCAA. I told myself that I wanted to make my mother proud and I played this game in her honor.”

Almost 12 years after this experience, Bédard talks about his years in Connecticut as some of the best years of his life. He learned to become a professional football player, obtained a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and became bilingual.

“ I came out of there so much stronger, I gained so much confidence and the adversity made me better and stronger on so many levels. And I can’t forget about all the friends I made there! ”