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Dion Pellerin: about self-sacrifice

From left offensive guard back to his home at running back, Mouat’s Dion Pellerin has always put his team first. (PNG photo, Ric Ernst)

by Howard Tsunamura, The Province, October 25, 2015

ABBOTSFORD — It was a moment you may have spotted in a practice or spied as the team was breaking the offensive huddle, and if you scratched your head and wondered, you were excused.

But come on, was that really the star senior tailback of Abbotsford’s W.J Mouat Hawks giving the team’s Grade 11 left guard some tips on the finer points of technique along the offensive line?

“It’s happened a few times,” laughs Hawks’ running back Dion Pellerin, who this season has been able to offer his learned advice to lineman Chris Park. “I have been able to offer some help when I’m in the backfield. It’s little things like how to move your feet.”

Ask Mouat first-year head coach Travis Bell about it, and he won’t use ‘little’ to describe anything about Pellerin, including the size of his heart and the depth of his character.

Last season, as he joined the Hawks’ senior varsity as a Grade 11 ready to compete for the starting running back spot, a key member of the Mouat offensive line, team captain and senior Kieran Testa, went down with a knee injury. Former head coach Denis Kelly looked at a paper-thin depth chart at the position and without any other practical options, asked Pellerin if he would give up his first senior varsity campaign at an offensive skill position to help the team out by learning how to play left guard and protect his starting quarterback’s blind side.

“That is what we are looking for at Mouat, kids willing to do what we ask for the betterment of the team,” said Bell, who had previously coached Pellerin on the Hawks’ JV squad. “You lose a top lineman in the middle of summer camp, and decisions have to be made. (Dion) stepped in, no bones about it and he stayed there the whole season.”

This season, he is back on more familiar ground, a 5-foot-11, 195-pound running back/middle linebacker.

Heading into Friday’s 2 p.m. Eastern Conference Triple A clash at Surrey’s Lord Tweedsmuir (1-3), where the Hawks (2-3) can clinch a playoff berth with a win, Pellerin is leading his team with 979 all-purpose yards and 11 touchdowns in seven overall games, rushing for seven scores and catching passes for four more.

But in reality, he is about so much more than his numbers because sacrificing an entire senior varsity season when the rest of the world isn’t watching just because it’s the right thing to do, reveals a depth of character that is priceless.

University coaches, are you listening?

“I just knew as a team that we needed it, and really, I learned a lot to go with it,” continued Pellerin. “It’s helped me as a blocking back. But you have to do anything for your team. We’re all brothers.”

Lining up in the backfield but also able to also step up as a slot receiver, Pellerin is just as effective on the other side of the ball. Over a Grade 11 season in which he played both ways, he did so as a rare combo left guard/middle linebacker, leading the team with 57 tackles. This season he has remained at the heart of Hawks’ defence, and again, leads the way with 42 tackles.

Yet as light as he is on his feet, whether planting a leg for a cut that frees him for a big run, or flying around on defence to snuff out an opposition first down, he’s a young man who plays with a heavy heart.

About two years ago, Pellerin lost his guiding force and his biggest fan when his father David passed of a sudden heart attack.

“He mentored me and he motivated me,” said Pellerin. “He taught me the rules. A week after he died, I went into the weight room and I started doing it for him. When I am out there pushing myself to get past a certain point, he is the biggest reason why.”

Adds Bell: “He’s got a whole lot of toughness and he is the total package.”

Dion Pellerin is the kind of kid that is easy to write great words about, but in the end, it’s his actions which will always speak loudest.

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