The Stinger starter proves that anything is possible if you want it.
Stingers football linebacker Loïk Gagné put up ridiculously good stats during the Shrine Bowl home game against the McGill Redbirds on Sept. 16, earning him the title of RSEQ player of the week. Although the season has been good to him, as he’s picked up close to 30 tackles, the Stingers defensive leader has come a long way grinding to where he is today.
Gagné grew up playing hockey and soccer in the shadow of his older brother, as every youngest child does. Neither hooked him and he was convinced that sports weren’t for him. He gave organised athletics another chance in the sixth grade, as the technical craft of flag football caught his eye. After two seasons of grabbing at fabric, he was obsessed with the rules of the game. He was serious, more than his father expected.
Going into his second year of secondary school, Gagné asked his father if he could play the real thing. As any protective parent would do, he rejected his son’s request. But this wasn’t just a want—it was a need. Every evening at dinner, the boy insisted his father let him play the game he loved. Eventually, he couldn’t say no. Gagné was on the field the following year playing for the St-Leonard Cougars.
The RSEQ star admits that his first year playing tackle football wasn’t ideal, but he knew that he had to work hard to be able to fly. He was learning how to tackle two years after everyone that he faced. “I’d never been so motivated to become better at anything else,” Gangé said. “The moment I started playing for real I said ‘Okay I need to go to the gym. I’m too skinny for this.’ I was never the fastest or the strongest, but I wanted it the most.”
Before he knew it, he was being offered to play division one football in CEGEP by Collège André-Grasset after only two years, and was recruited to play for Quebec’s all-star team.
As a first year in a division one team, Gagné put in the same amount of work as he did throughout high school, as he wasn’t satisfied with his performance or play time. Despite the cancellation of his second season due to the pandemic, the all-star linebacker was able to display a CEGEP career that would attract attention from all over Quebec. Having witnessed the Concordia Stingers’ 2021 winning underdog season from afar, paired with his strong interest in athletic therapy, Gagné saw what this university had to offer and found his new home.
Coming into the 2022 season, the rookie was confident that he would get playtime as long as he showed off his division one abilities. However, the pace of play jumps significantly from CEGEP to university, regardless of where you play. As a freshman, it takes time to get used to the way the vets play. As a result of being disregarded for the majority of the season, Loïk Gagné did what he does best, and put in more work.
“Nothing improves you more than not having the season you want. I came out of D1 a little cocky,” Gagné said. “I get to Concordia thinking I’m going to play, and I get sick at the beginning of camp. I missed two important weeks, and after that I didn’t perform the way I wanted. So I brought that frustration to the gym. The day after losing the quarter finals to Laval, I was in the gym.”
The Stingers football organisation made a coaching change during this offseason to take a more next-gen approach. Instead of two or three coaches devoting their time to the Stingers defensive core, six or seven are coaching in a way where they’re familiar with the players at a deeper psychological level in order to convey their tactics smoothly. It has certainly helped Gagné, as he’s made 26 tackles in only four games this season, compared to last season’s total of three and a half.
The Stingers’ next game is on Oct. 8 away against Laval. This might be the hardest game of the season for the team, but the starting linebacker is confident that their grit will shine in opposing territory.
“Even though we have things to work on, we showed against Laval, against Sherbrooke, that this team has character,” Gagné said. “We’re showing that when a team has character, nothing’s going to stop them. Whether it’s at the CEPSUM, or at Percival Molson Stadium. As much as we like playing in front of our fans, our guys are audacious. We’re going to beat them in their own house. We’re not traveling for nothing.”