Imagine being a CFL player during the off-season.
Sure, you get to spend time with your family and friends, enjoy a vacation or two, but that would probably get old quick, right?
You’d be away from your teammates and coaches for about half the year and you wouldn’t get to suit up in games or practice for a long stretch. If you love football, that sounds a little boring.
So it’s easy to understand why players might want to challenge themselves during the long winter months without football.
Montreal Alouettes quarterback Antonio Pipkin decided to test himself by (sort of) going vegan during his time at home in Gary, Indiana last winter.
The idea came to Pipkin when he found out that Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was going to be staying away from meat products. Newton, who is listed at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, is bigger than Pipkin (he’s listed at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds) but the two quarterbacks play a similar style. They can both sling the ball around the field and also rely on their mobility to create plays.
Most of us tend to get pudgier during the cold winter months, but Pipkin says he dropped 17 pounds while (sort of) maintaining that vegan diet.
“I chose to do it just to challenge myself to see how I could handle it. It’s hard to put yourself through adversity during the offseason as opposed to the season when you’re playing to win games. It was a challenge for me that I wanted to continue to cut weight and continue to trim up,” Pipkin said.
“I really wanted to challenge myself mentality to be able to overcome not eating meat every day. Being disciplined enough to stick to something long enough to see a result. And I think I did that.”
Now that he’s back in training camp, Pipkin has started eating meat again. The 23-year-old admitted that cutting out chicken was the toughest part of being a vegan. He added that steak wasn’t a big part of his diet before.
Pipkin played at 225 pounds last season, and he anticipates that his playing weight will be somewhere between 218 to 220 pounds in 2019. That might not seem like much of a difference, but dropping a few pounds has made him feel lighter on the practice field.
The reason I mentioned that Pipkin “sort of” went vegan, is because he woke up every morning and had a two or three-egg spinach and cheese omelette. When I reminded him that vegans don’t typically eat eggs, he smiled and said he was putting his own spin on the vegan diet (he called it a “no meat diet.”)
All kidding aside, Pipkin is the front-runner to be the starting quarterback for the Als this year. Players his age don’t typically start in the CFL, so it’s a positive sign to see that he took his off-season seriously. If the Alouettes are going to shock the league this year, they’ll need someone to emerge as a quality pivot from the start of Week 1.
In six games last season, he completed nearly 60 per cent of his passes for 1,120 yards, three touchdowns and eight interceptions. That touchdown-to-interception ratio may not look great on the surface, but keep in mind that four of those picks came in a game against the B.C. Lions and a few of the others really weren’t his fault. Pipkin added 252 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on the ground.
Whether or not Pipkin can become a starting quarterback this season remains to be seen, but he seems to be taking the right approach off the field. Will that translate into on-field success? The Alouettes sure hope so.