Young receiver forces opposition to provide double coverage
Rodreke (Rod) Joseph‚Äôs skill as a receiver forced opposing teams to provide him with double coverage, freeing up other Mounties players to make some big plays in the 2013 campaign. Joseph is shown above in action during the Uteck Bowl, which was held in Sackville last fall.
He was 13 years old when his family decided to seek a better life in Canada and hadn't touched a football until he entered Grade 10, but Rodreke (Rod) Joseph discovered his passion immediately and has been playing the game at an elite level ever since.
Mountie fans will immediately recognize the big receiver who wore number eight and was a key factor in the way opposing coaches shaped their game plans following his transition to university level football.
Yes, Joseph, who was born in the Caribbean ‚Äď St. Vincent's to be precise ‚Äď has made it possible for the Mounties to move the ball around more since he invariably draws double and triple coverage. This not only allows the other receivers to find some open space but, during the past season, finally has given Jordan Botel some breathing room as running back.
The 6‚Äô3" speedster with huge hands and dazzling pattern running came to the Mounties after three years of high school ball at Westin Collegiate in Toronto and three years of junior football. He played one season with the Burlington Braves under former Mountie star Kelly Hughes and then two more with the Calgary Colts. In earlier years he played as a tight end and was recruited by several schools, including the University of Alberta and Manitoba, but it was coach Kelly Jeffrey who presented the better selling points and encouraged him to come to Sackville where he says he feels most comfortable.
"When I came for a visit I found this to present a close-knit, family-like atmosphere," he said recently referring to his recruiting tour and time spent with coaches and players, adding that coming here was the perfect decision.
Joseph says it was an honour to be part of the Uteck Bowl team and predicts the Mounties will go ever further over the next two years as he plays out his CIS eligibility. He is currently 23 after having spent three years following high school graduation playing junior ball.
Currently enrolled in the arts program, Joseph aims to earn a degree from the top undergraduate school in Canada but would also consider an offer, should one come, from the CFL. Several former Mounties, including Eric Lapointe, Seb Roy, Phil Girard, Bill Blair, Rick Black and Skip Eaman have enjoyed success at the professional level.
Joseph believes in the coaching staff at Mount Allison and says he is prepared to make a contribution in whatever role he is asked ‚Äď and if it is making the big catches or serving as decoy it is all the same. There is no doubt his presence resulted in greater success by Troy Trentham and Josh Blanchard during the past campaign, as they were more successful in finding open spots. And with Brandon Leyh capable of finding these spots with a rifle-like arm Joseph predicts the offense can only get better.
Coach Jeffrey says Joseph is a big physical target that commands more than one defender.
"His ability leads to teams double teaming him, which opens up others in the passing game. Rod's skill continues to develop as he was just in his first CIS season. He continued to improve over the course of the year and I think he is just starting to tap into his enormous talent. He is an important part of the offense for the way he can make plays when there is nothing there. He has a strong passion to excel and this offseason I think we will see continued improvement in the little things he needs to improve on."
But the transition from junior ball didn't come without some cost. He recalls experiencing a horrible day - his first as a Mountie in the season opener when he dropped three consecutive passes.
"The game is just so much faster at this level," he says, "with players coming at you from all angles it requires a good deal of adjustment to CIS football."
But things improved in a hurry and he ended the season with 34 receptions for 341 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His value was recognized in the Uteck Bowl when Laval covered him closely but used two men for the job, paying him a compliment, as receivers Trentham, Blanchard and Moore all got open to score touchdowns.
Joseph is proud of his Mounties and believes the coaches know what is required to continue on the upward spiral. While it is vital for them to find some top recruits to prepare for when the current crop graduate it is also important to maintain the off-season training program. This means up to six days a week in the weight room to gain strength and quickness. He realizes a key requirement will be finding a tailback to take up the slack with the graduation of Botel but is confident answers will be forthcoming and that it may be an option to use Leyh's powereful arm to greater advantage.
The offensive-minded Joseph is impressed with the special and defensive units that have been developed here, pointing out there are at least three outstanding kick returners in Michael Bohan, Josh Blanchard and Donovan Saunders, and some great downfield tacklers. With these units solidified and the offense showing newfound effectiveness he is eager to get back to fall camp and a much better start to the campaign than was experienced in 2013.
The Toronto resident has learned to love "sweet little Sackville", with a good many fans stopping him on the streets to talk football or to just congratulate him on a good game and he looks forward to even more interactions with local folks during his next two seasons as a Mountie.