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Wednesday, 29 October 2014 15:02

Fabian brothers grow strong and proud with football

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Andrew Fabian kicking a field goal; Bears' Stephen Fabian punting Andrew Fabian kicking a field goal; Bears' Stephen Fabian punting Prairie Post illustration courtesy Lorraine Rankin (U of R), Jim Correy (U of A)

Growing up on a farm just outside of the community of Tilley, little did young Andrew and Stephen Fabian know that the gridiron would be a big part of their lives.

Twenty-some odd years later, the Fabian brothers are kicking it with their respective University of Regina and University of Alberta football squads.
In the case of slightly older brother Andrew, he’s competed at all levels of football including minor, high school and junior with the Prairie Junior Football Conference, Canadian Inter-university Sport and the Canadian Football League.
It hasn’t been easy for either of them, but they have adjusted. Both are extremely talented, confident, but are also polite, articulate and grateful for the help they have received along the way.
Stephen says growing up he was a huge fan of the Calgary Stampeders, but never thought of football as a professional career. Instead, he wanted to play soccer until 2011 when he played for Team Alberta in the Canada Cup, the national high school football tournament. He was named the tournament’s special teams Most Valuable Player amongst all the provinces. He garnered a lot of confidence from this Canada Cup where he was and realized he could compete with kickers across the country.
Stephen notes that was the starting point, but credits his high school coaches in Brooks.
“Andrew and I were both very lucky to have the coaches we did throughout our junior high and high-school football careers,” explains Stephen. “Jim Hartley, was (and still is) the U of C kicking coach. Andrew and I both had him as a coach in both junior high and high school. Andrew was three years ahead of me, so once he graduated from the Brooks junior high team, they needed a kicker. Naturally, they assumed that if the older brother can do it, so can the younger brother. I saw that Andrew had success with it so I wanted to give it a shot too. Both Andrew and I each played soccer for over 10 years, and that was what laid the foundation for our kicking in football.
“I started playing peewee football in Brooks in Grade 4. Again, my brother played and I liked all the same sports he did, so I figured I would give it a shot. Ironically, at first I hated it. I wanted to quit after the first week, but my mom made me go for a couple more weeks so I had a better idea of whether or not I wanted to play. I’m sure glad she did. Football grew on me more and more and Andrew and I began to watch it on TV more and more as we got older.”
Andrew says he also enjoyed soccer and playing in the backyard of his Tilley farmhouse. He enjoyed hockey as well.
He liked the physical contact of hockey and when he had to quit because of family time constraints he missed it. His mom suggested he try football when he was in Grade 4 with the Brooks peewee team. Andrew never looked back playing receiver, defensive back and of course kicker through the community Roadrunner program and high school Buffalos. He didn’t make Team Alberta, but Hartley talked with Blake Nill the head coach of the University Calgary Dinos about kicking for them.
Andrew says that through some recruiting issues with the University of Calgary where things didn’t unfold like he thought, he was almost turned off football. He wanted to become a paramedic and got a call from the Calgary Colts junior program.
He spent four years with the Colts and thought he was done after working through and successfully passing his Emergency Medical Technician program.
He was at the Canadian Junior Football League’s awards banquet when a representative from the University of Regina contacted him and asked if he wanted to kick for the Rams starting the 2014 season.
“They had a huge vacancy in the kicker position and the recruiter said  I was more or less guaranteed a spot,” explains Andrew. “The transition back into CIS was okay.”
Andrew noted Regina is dedicated to their football program with film work, practices, work out as well as trying to complete classes and homework.
Of course there is sibling rivalry between the two. Naturally when one plays the same position and are on two different teams within the same conference, there’s bound to be some rivalry.
Andrew says they text each other a lot and stay in touch.
“Everyone always asks us, who’s the better kicker. Andrew will agree with me when I say that it completely depends on the day. Some days I am, some days he is,” Stephen explains. “Growing up, it was always my goal to be better than him. He didn’t like it when I was better than him at something and as a younger brother, I of course had to try for that in anything I could. There was always rivalry but I firmly believe this competitive nature is the biggest reason why I am where I am today. Currently, we talk every week about how things are going and it’s nice to have both a  family member, as well as someone who plays the same position to discuss things. Kicking is a very different position and it can be difficult to explain things unless you have been in that position yourself. And I am always paying attention to how he is doing. After week six of the regular season, him and I are tied for sixth in the country for field goal percentage and are number eight and nine for punt yard average. If that doesn’t create rivalry, then I don’t know what does.”
Andrew says his stats aren’t where he’d liked them to be. He is suffering from a leg injury which is not allowing him to heal and has prevented him from doing kickoffs.
He has also been through a disappointing season where a lot more was expected of the Rams, but failed to materialize, although they still have a chance of making the CIS’s Canada West playoffs as legendary head coach Frank McCrystal announced he will retire after this year after more than 30 years of being in charge of the Rams (first) junior level and the jump to university programs.
Stephen has some high goals. He wants to be an Academic All-Canadian, be selected as a first or second team All-Canadian at least once in his university career, be selected for the East-West all star game at the end of his third year, start all five years of his CIS career, finish each year with a 40+ yard punt average and a +85 per cent field goal percentage. His ultimate personal goal is to get drafted into the CFL in his fourth year, but if not, get picked up as a free agent after his fifth and final year.
“I like to set very high goals for myself because I firmly believe that if I fully buy in and put my heart and soul into it, I can achieve anything I want with my football career,” he explains, even though the Golden Bears have had trouble winning games.
In the first two years, the Bears had consecutive 0-8 records and this year are struggling to reach the playoffs.
Both are proud to be from the rural area. They say it gave them values, a strong work ethic as well as other life skills away from the football field.
For example Stephen thinks being raised in the rural community helps shape many things that guys raised in the city don’t get to experience. Distance from sports equals time management skills.
“Growing up in the rural community had both a lot of benefits, as well as many downfalls, but ultimately I would not have had it any other way. Growing up on a farm, you don’t have the luxury of being able to go hang out with friends whenever you want, or go to the movies, rec. center, etc.,” explains Stephen. “Because of this, you often had to make your own fun. This helped shape a lot of creativity and resourcefulness that I have, along with many other characteristics that I still use in every day life today. The inability to go out and do things at a young age is also another reason why Andrew and I have the athletic skill sets. We had to make our own fun, so we would play sports. We would spend countless hours on the front lawn playing a variety of sports.”
He adds the rural life also makes you accountable and respectful because negativity on any count in a small town is bad. A hard work ethic develops from the effort put into work on a farm and having to do whatever is necessary to get the job done.
Andrew feels the same way. While he’s had trials and tribulations, the entire football experience has been a wonderful learning opportunity.
“It hasn’t been a hard thing,” says Andrew. “Overall, the experience has been great.”

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor