Rob Maver was a husky high school kid with an unfortunate hairstyle when he travelled from his home in Brampton to the Toronto Argonauts practice facility on a mission to meet his idol.
Maver is currently the punter for the Calgary Stampeders and so it’s hardly a surprise that instead of a quarterback or a receiver – players normal kids emulate – his hero was Argo kicker Noel Prefontaine.
“I was 18 years old with frosted tips and I probably weighed 25 pounds more than I do now because high school Rob loved beer and pizza,” Maver said this week as his Stampeders get set to face the Argos in Sunday’s Grey Cup. “I watched him kick during practice then he signed my jersey afterward. I was too star struck to talk to him much.”
Prefontaine played 16 CFL seasons, mostly for the Argos, and was still around when Maver entered the league as a Stampeder draft pick in 2010. They were on opposing teams in the 2012 Grey Cup, when Prefontaine won the second of his two championships at the expense of Maver’s Calgary team.
Even his Grey Cup win, two years later against the Hamilton, comes with a foggy asterisk. Just a few minutes into the third quarter of that game, Maver was levelled by Ticat defensive end Justin Hickman while trying to make a tackle. It left him with a concussion and only fragments of the eventual celebration.
“I remember hugging teammates after the game but my fiancée was at the game and I don’t remember seeing her,” Maver said. “My favourite memory is being at a post-game celebration with back up quarterback Drew Tate and he was still decked out in his equipment – he refused to take off his gear all night.”
This is Maver’s fourth Grey Cup appearance – the Stamps also lost last season – and he says he’s learned to cope with the inevitable challenges of the week, which wreak havoc on the usual routine.
“You know when to get food, when to warm up, you’re cognizant of the different schedule on game day – you’re in the dressing room a lot longer before the game. Your mindful of all the things that can throw you for a loop,” he said. “My first Grey Cup, I was just so happy to be there. I was caught off guard by some things, how broken up the schedule was.”
Maver acknowledges that he and many of his teammates are using last year’s loss as fuel for Sunday’s game. The Stamps fell behind by 20 points, rallied to tie the game with just seconds left – they had a chance to win it late – only to fall in overtime.
“Anybody who says differently is lying to you: losing a championship is one of the worst feelings,” Maver said. “To say that a lot of guys are using it as motivation is definitely fair.”
Despite his Brampton roots, Maver is now a full-time Calgary resident. He and his fiancée Libby – a Hamilton native – have come to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle the nearby Rocky mountains provide. And they’ve got big plans.
“This year could be an incredible year. I proposed to my fiancée in May, I’ve got a chance to win a Grey Cup, then I’m getting married in the spring,” Maver said. “That could be a pretty great combination.”
The chunky 18-year-old kid with the frosted tips would undoubtedly be impressed by what his adult self has managed to accomplish.
“I grew up as a long-time fan of this league, watching Doug Flutie, watching Jeff Garcia, reading about Warren Moon,” Maver said. “Now that I’ve played in the league for so long, I really relish every moment because of how much I loved it when I was younger.”