Sports

Hyack top football academic in B.C.

Arjun Venkatesh will soon be hulking over his books rather than the football. The centre for the New Westminster Hyacks has been awarded a BC High School Football scholarship for $2,000, which he
Arjun Venkatesh will soon be hulking over his books rather than the football. The centre for the New Westminster Hyacks has been awarded a BC High School Football scholarship for $2,000, which he'll put towards his post-secondary studies in engineering physics.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

On the night the New Westminster Hyacks honoured its graduating seniors, Arjun Venkatesh’s father came to head coach Farhan Lalji to offer his thanks for coaching his son.

“It should be me who is thanking you,” replied Lalji.

This week B.C. High School Football named Venkatesh its academic player of the year, the first Hyack to receive the honour, and awarded him a $2,000 scholarship. The six-foot-two, 230-pound centre had a 95 per cent average in NWSS’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program, playing bass trombone in the school’s jazz band, and doing extensive volunteering.

“He’s done so much for us, and he’s so low maintenance. His parents are to be big time commended for the young man they’ve raised,” says Lalji.

Venkatesh’s family moved from India to the Lower Mainland when he was three years old. When he was in Grade 6, his father, a chemical engineer, got a job in Mason, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati where he played football for two seasons.,

“I’ve always wanted to play it. It thought it was a cool sport,” says Venkatesh, who didn’t have any trouble convincing his parents to let him play.

“They encouraged me. They encouraged me in pretty much everything I do. They had no clue how it worked. No clue.”

In his final year at Cincinnati he quit football because he found it was taking away from his homework. But in 2010, the family watched the Winter Olympics and realized how much they missed the Lower Mainland. Since his father’s job situation had changed they decided to come back.

Upon their return, Venkatesh chose NWSS because it had IB and a football team as well. So while taking a Grade 10 course at summer school, before he even entered Grade 10, he wandered around to the weight room where the Hyacks trained during the summer.

“He was just a nice mild-mannered kid. Average sized lineman, but not beyond impressive,” says Lalji. “He’s blown away everybody in our academic program for the last three years.

“He’s always positive. His intellect carries over to the football field. The last two years he’s progressed as a player to the point where he is a really effective starter for us.”

As coaches, Lalji says his staff doesn’t accommodate players taking time away from football for other activities. However, he makes an exception for IB because they frequently have to take an extra class, which are often taught on a university entry level basis, at the end of the day when the team is practising. He’s blown away by Vankatesh’s ability to juggle his schedule, commitments and workload.

“The way he’s been able to manage all of that, and some kids are like that, but he is an example of every kid being capable of doing a little bit more. And he is an example that every kid can at least manage all of their commitments, even if you can’t be a 96 per cent International Baccalaureate student like Arjun,” says Lalji.

Venkatesh may come up with answers on tests easily, but he’s a little uncertain about how to answer what drives him to do so many things so well.

“I’m not really sure. I just like being good in everything I do,” says Venkatesh.

He just makes sure he makes time for everything he’s involved in, and they don’t get short shrifted.

“I take it as a personal offence if I fall back in a class,” he says.

For example, the first three tests he took in Grade 11 came back with marks below 85 per cent. Even though it was midway through the football season, he went to work on ensuring the trend wasn’t going to continue.

“I’m used to getting marks above 90. So I really started studying and got my grades back up. That was kind of a shocker,” says Venkatesh.

Much of the inspiration for his multi-learning life comes from his parents—his mother has an English literature degree. He also got some from his first year at NWSS when he witnessed lineman Nick Adomat play football and do IB.

“I saw that he could do it, so I thought why wouldn’t I do it,” says Venkatesh.

Adomat is in his second year taking civil engineering at academically prestigious McGill University in Montreal as well as playing football for the school. Lalji says the two are similar in the sense they’re both unassuming and were both elected captains by their teammates.

“The thing that always impressed me with Nick and it does with Arjun is there’s not a lot of stress there, they just do it. If you’re organized and it’s all important to you it’s not stress, you just do. You have an accountability to yourself,” says Lalji.

Although Adamat plays for the McGill Redmen, Venkatesh plans to concentrate on his studies when he moves on to post secondary. He plans on taking UBC’s “extremely intensive” engineering physics program. He has an interest in cold fusion and the environment because it is green energy with high efficiency.

“What’s going to replace petroleum as an energy source. I figure that’s going to be quite lucrative and be green at the same time,” he says.

Besides his academics and trombone playing, Venkatesh is the co-organizer of the NWSS clothes swap that will benefit Covenant House while also working with the school’s Red Cross and Canadian Cancer Society clubs.

Football may be finished, but the time management juggling isn’t.

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