Paul Cecile knew he was going into the toughest experience of his life. He had options to go other ways and make life easier on himself, but he would have none of it — his character wouldn’t allow it.
Cecile committed to the University of Waterloo Warriors football program for the fall of 2010 after a stand-out career with College Notre-Dame.
But the program was suspended that season due to a steroids scandal that saw many players transfer to other schools. The Warriors football program was in complete disarray. No one would have blamed Cecile for bailing.
The thought never crossed his mind, though. Cecile toughed it out and now, as he enters his fourth season, the Sudbury-born wide receiver is one of the main players on the team.
“When I heard the news of the suspension, I was distraught,” the 22-year-old said. “I realized that I wanted to prove myself as a person with character. I decided to keep my word as they needed me then more than ever.
“I want my family to be proud. I want to be accountable for my actions and stand by my work. I'm proud of myself for doing it because I didn't take the easy way out.”
Waterloo lost top receiver Nick Anapolsky to graduating after 2013. He had the lion’s share of the receptions in the receiver corps. Cecile is due to step up and take on a bigger role and plays. With 600-yards and five touchdowns over the last two seasons to his credit, he has it in him.
“I've never been hungrier,” Cecile said. “This season is everything to me. It's not only the culmination of my CIS football career, it's the culmination of my football career, period.
He doesn't expect to set records or be named an all-star, Cecile said, but he does look to be the guy the team can count on in the clinch.
“I expect more of a responsibility as a guy the boys look to make a big play,” he said. “It's going to be a team effort to fill the hole left by Anapolsky, but I'm going to do my part.”
Cecile was appointed captain for 2014. It’s not hard to figure out. Coaches and players see how hard he works, day in and day out with honest effort.
Cecile earned the respect of his team from his attitude, character and will to compete. The coaching staff wants others to take notice.
“Paul is the first guy to volunteer to do anything, and everything he has, he gives all the time,” said Waterloo interim head coach Marshall Bingeman. “He is always working. He knows what to do at this level each day.”
Bingeman describes Cecile as polished player with more than his share of mental and physical toughness. As a wide receiver, he has speed and good hands.
Waterloo has struggled to get back on the winning track since the suspended season. They went 1-7 in 2013.
Cecile would love nothing more than to help Waterloo start winning again.
“I’m not going to lie, it has been tough not winning as much as we expect to,” the recreation and leisure student said. “My only goal since I've been here is to have a positive impact in rebuilding this team to a championship level in any way I can.”
Regardless though, the lessons he's learned on the gridiron will serve him well when Cecile finally puts down his helmet, slips off the Warriors jersey and moves on with his life, post-football.
“I've grown hungry to win, on the field and in life,” Cecile said. “I've learned things aren't easy and you can't count on lucky bounces.
“I find it easy to interpret the lessons I've learned on the field to a real world perspective. Whatever I decide to do when I'm done, if it's tough, it is possible, and what's more important is, it will be worth it.”