In the Spotlight – Brett Lauther – CFL Veteran Kicker & Football Ambassador

We caught up with Brett Lauther, veteran CFL kicker for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the off season, which is not an easy task, because he is always on the go either getting ready for the season or promoting the game that has given him so much.  Thankfully he took a time out to talk to Spotlight on Business about his path to professional football, the upcoming Touch Down Atlantic Game in Wolfville and why Nova Scotia has always had a special place in his heart and what it would mean for the Maritimes to get a CFL team in the region.

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Spotlight: Tell us a little about yourself as there may be some readers that might not know your connection to Nova Scotia?  What was it like growing up in the hub of the province in Truro?  Where did you get your love for football? 

Brett Lauther: Well, my family is from Nova Scotia.  I love getting back to the East Coast whenever I can.  It always feels like home even though these days the visits seem to be fewer and farther in between.  I love going back East to Nova Scotia to see family, friends and the culture there, it is hard to explain you need to experience it, to understand.

Like a lot of kids from a small town, I grew up playing a bunch of different sports, but my first love was hockey, won a Midget AAA provincial championship, played a little bit of junior hockey when attending St. Mary’s University and it’s a game that I still enjoy playing today.

My passion for football started in my first year of high school in grade 10.  I knew nothing about the game, the coaching staff at CEC were extremely supportive and motivating from the first day I walked onto the field.  For me, it was a new challenge, I just thought the game was so unique compared to a lot of other sports I had played, because there are so many moving parts, that all had to work together to be successful. I had the opportunity to play many positions on the team, which developed my understanding and love for the game which got me ready for what has been my football journey.

Spotlight: Truro, Nova Scotia is a big football town, and the Cobequid Educational Centre Cougars have a very solid football program, during your time at CEC, the team appeared in three consecutive Provincial Tier 1 Championships with CEC winning two.  What was it like to be a Cougar and how did the program that just celebrated its 50th anniversary this past season, get you ready for what was to come in your career? 

Brett Lauther:  I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to play for CEC and for a player just starting out well you couldn’t really find a better program for how the coaches treated the players.  The program at CEC is larger than the game, it teaches you so many life skills that go far beyond football.  With CEC being a larger High School, having a lot of friends as teammates kind of helped me early on.  There is a tradition, amazing coaches and some great players coming up and going through the program at CEC, especially back when I first started.  I feel fortunate to have had those coaches and mentors as I got my start into football.  There has been a lot of people help me along the way that’s for sure.

Spotlight: After high school you committed to a football powerhouse in Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where you and your Huskies teammates made it to the AUS Championship four consecutive years winning 2 Championships.  What was it like be part of the program and how did it get you ready for turning pro?

Brett Lauther:  Thinking about the next chapter in my football journey really started during and after my grade 11 year.  I didn’t want to just go through the motions I wanted to become the best and get ready for that next level.  So, I did a lot of training in the off season. In Grade 11 a lot of teams from the college level started floating around from different areas in Canada looking to recruit players, especially schools in the AUS.  Me committing to Saint Mary’s was started by Scott Annand, who was a biology teacher of mine at CEC.  Scott is a well-respected football player and coach with experience and success at all levels including professionally with a couple of CFL teams including the Saskatchewan Roughriders as an assistant coach and as the football operations coordinator for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Scott was the Defensive Line Coach with Saint Mary’s. So, I am sure he was always plugging my name to Coach Blake Nill and Coach Steve Sumarah of Saint Mary’s to give me a shot and I respected that.  So even when the Ontario and Western schools were calling, I knew that I wanted to stay in my home province to play football so, committing to Saint Mary’s was an easy choice, I knew that if Scott was there, it would be a good place for me. Plus, they had and still have an excellent program, it also gave me the opportunity to play with a few of my teammates from the Football Nova Scotia and CEC Cougar football programs, making the transition to the university level a lot easier. 

When I arrived at Saint Mary’s the football program was very much like my experience my first year with CEC.  The coaching staff and the people associated with the team were amazing and supportive.   I committed to Saint Mary’s University as a receiver, but they gave me the opportunity to work on my skill set and develop as a player, to take the next steps towards my goal of playing professionally.  I just kept working hard and stayed focused on my goals as a student and as an athlete.  In my third year at SMU, I had the opportunity to play in the East West Bowl and as it sometimes happens during any game, my team was struggling to score touchdowns, so I had lots of opportunities to get out on the field and put some points on the board with field goals for that game. 

I was excited for my last year at SMU, we had a really good team and looked to be a solid contender for an AUS or even National Championship that year. Unfortunately our quarterback broke his neck in our first game against Acadia that year.  So that led to me doing a lot more kicking attempts that year, which looking back probably helped me at the time and earned me the team MVP for my last year at SMU. 

I was fortunate to get an invitation to the national combine which was a huge deal for me and especially coming from the AUS which doesn’t get the exposure the other conferences do.  Once the combine was done, I really focused on training full time with a lot of guys that were going to be in the draft on my team. We were doing four or five days a week of 6 am workouts and then field work and then also class.  But my hard work paid off and I was drafted by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats with one of my Saint Mary’s Huskies Teammates, Neil King.  It was an amazing experience and Neil is one of my good buddies to this day.

Spotlight: What was it like to be drafted to play for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League in the 2013 CFL Draft?  What was it like to play your first professional football game in front of a Maritime crowd as part of Touchdown Atlantic? I had the pleasure to see that game, and I am sure you remember it well as you went 4 for 4 for field goal attempts that day, what was that experience like?

Brett Lauther: The CFL draft was a lot different back then. It didn’t get the publicity that it gets now.  I will be honest; I wasn’t expecting to get drafted but my agent said there were some whispers of me potentially getting the call during the draft.  I knew I had a good year, my final year at Saint Mary’s, and had a good showing at the East West Bowl and felt that my interviews, and National Combine went very well.  So, I was obviously hoping to be drafted but truly had no pre-set expectations and just went about my day. Then I remember getting the call from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats organization and talking to Kent Austin, Drew Allemang, Shawn Burke and Jeff Reinebold of the Hamilton program. And yeah, it was obviously a life changing call and I was extremely excited to get drafted and to have an opportunity to play professional football, it validates all my efforts along with those of everyone else that helped me get there along the way. So, it was a cool day for family, friends, teammates, and a lot of coaches and especially my dad. I remember just being at home with him, and we’re kind of keeping it very low key with no expectations.  When it came up that Hamilton was on the ticker, and I got the phone call that I was drafted, it was pretty cool and awesome that I got to share that moment with my father.

My first game ever as a professional was in the Maritimes making a truly unique experience.  Long story short, I was drafted to Hamilton, went to training camp with six others including Luca Congi and Josh Bartel, the kicker and punter from the previous year.   So, after camp and preseason basically the Ticats were going to go with Luca and Josh again obviously, that made sense after all the two guys were the All Stars the year before.  But the coaching staff had decided that they were going to have another guy also, just in case as football is a rough sport and anything can happen.  I knew that I had a pretty good camp and preseason game in Montreal, so I was confident I had a chance.  I was added to what was called the Nine Game Injury List back then.  It was basically a way to keep a player around but not on your practice roster where someone else could sign them.  You got paid, which was excellent, but you couldn’t play any games for at least nine weeks. So, it was week 13 of the season and Luca, who was a great kicker and a great mentor especially for my first year of professional football, unfortunately had a couple of games where he was off.  I never really thought anything about it, I knew he would work it out and wasn’t expecting to play.  I remember the week, just going in and seeing my name first on the depth chart and having the coaches talk to me that I was getting the start for the Touchdown Atlantic Game in Moncton, New Brunswick.  I remember calling my dad, it was a pretty crazy call. It was a whirlwind because it was something that neither of us were expecting, especially 13 weeks into a season.  What added to the excitement was being able to play my first regular season game ever in the Maritimes, in front of family, friends and coaches that had helped me get to this point, it was something I’ll never forget that’s for sure.

Spotlight: Now we jump ahead, 9 years as Touchdown Atlantic returns to the Maritime region on Saturday, July 16 as your Saskatchewan Roughriders take on the Toronto Argonauts at
Acadia University’s Raymond Field in front 10,000 fans in Nova Scotia’s first-ever Canadian Football League (CFL) regular season contest, what are your feelings about playing a regular season game, in your home province and with all your friends and family in the stands?   

Brett Lauther:  Yeah, obviously it’s just something that’s surreal. I feel very fortunate to have played my very first game in Moncton and now to be on a different team nine years later, getting the opportunity to play in the first ever regular season CFL game in Nova Scotia.  It’s something that is hard to put into words, really.  For a lot of friends, family and coaches that have supported me, they have not been able to get out to a game in Saskatchewan or when I have played out East, so it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to, for them to see a game and for CFL fans in general to get to experience the game.  I hope that this is a building block for Nova Scotia and the other Maritime provinces to hopefully be taking further steps forward to potentially getting a stadium, a team, and a fan base here. I see a team here being very much like the Saskatchewan Roughriders.  We are not the Regina Rough Riders just like this team isn’t called the Halifax Schooners, it’s called the Atlantic schooners for a reason. It’s more than just Halifax or Nova Scotia, it’s all about representing all Maritimers and the Atlantic coast.

I always try to say this, I guess because I didn’t really grow up knowing a lot about the CFL because we did not have a team in the Maritimes, nor a stadium that could host a game without a lot of work to get a venue ready.  Having a CFL stadium is so much more than about football and the games that are played there.  I feel like it’s exactly what the province and region need, because it is not just about having a CFL team that’s going to have nine home games a year, you’re also going to have a venue that can draw bigger concerts and host bigger festivals.  Having a multi-sport facility for kids does amazing things to help develop future athletics.  I remember when I was a kid, we got to play a game in the Metro Center. I felt like I was playing in the NHL.   With a multi-sport facility soccer, football, rugby, lacrosse players and teams would have that same opportunity of playing on the turf where they could have championship games and dream of going pro, and as a kid that is a big deal, at least it was for me and for many others.  In Saskatchewan, Mosaic Stadium just hosted the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames for a winter classic game, which was an amazing success.  I could only imagine having Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins versus Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche playing in the Winter Classic or hockey game outdoors here, that would be absolutely amazing and just imagine what they would do for the hospitality industry in the province.  Like I said, having a stadium is so much bigger than football and something that I think the province needs, not only for keeping younger people here, but also for the tourism that it would generate. Yes, a stadium is a lot of money and hard to justify especially when we are still recovering from the pandemic.  But when you travel, and you see what these stadiums do for other provinces, and positive economic spinoff you see the need.  Sorry I got off topic, so jumping back, I am very excited to be coming back to Nova Scotia for a regular season game and to be playing on Acadia University’s Raymond Field in Wolfville, where I played the last game of my AUS career against the Axemen.  I am looking forward to the opportunity to show my coaches and teammates everything that this province that I’m from has to offer and just how awesome and unique it is.  And I’m really looking forward to bringing the CFL game I love to the people of Nova Scotia.

Spotlight: Tells us about what you do in the off season to prepare yourself to get back on the field for the start of the season? Last year’s numbers were amazing with you going 40/47, which is 85%, how do you keep your leg and body in shape?

Brett Lauther:  It might sound cliche but for me there’s not really an offseason, even though there is six months between.  So, once the season ends and we head into December I’m not training like we’re heading into a playoff run or anything like that. I like to take some time to get back to Nova Scotia, see my family, friends, have a couple of beers and just enjoy the time home.  Once the new year comes, in January, it’s more or less maintaining and just staying in good shape and not letting yourself go.  I’m in my ninth offseason so I have it figured out, to a certain degree, what I need and don’t need to get ready for the upcoming season.  Plus, I’m starting to get to the age, at 31, where less is sometimes more and it’s definitely more mental preparation than people think. 

This year I have been traveling a lot more attending the PA meeting in Vegas then straight to Toronto for the mentorship program, back to Alberta for a couple of weeks before heading East to Nova Scotia for the Touch Down Atlantic announcement and now down here in California for training. So, this offseason it’s been a little more unique but it’s just getting your workouts in each day, staying on the field and just maintaining your leg to make sure it stays fresh and staying focused on a routine of what I need to do.  There are no real secrets to my routine, just keep focused, put in a lot of hard work and stay dedicated. And if you have that along with the right mindset, whatever you want to do in life, you’re going to be able to do it, whether it’s sports or outside of it. So, if you work hard, and stay focused, have a goal and get better everyday you can make it happen.  The numbers that you mention from last season, that’s not just me going out on the field and kicking the ball.  We play as a team; we have a great o-line, snapper, and holder in Saskatchewan, along with great coaches and a lot of other people that are part of what I do.  They are focused on their job and being the best, just like I am, so that we can all succeed together as a team.

Spotlight: Lets change it up a little bit, what do you like to do when you are not training?  

Brett Lauther:  The number one thing is just getting back home to see family and friends. I spend a lot of time away now so anytime I can get to see them I do, especially every December I head home to Truro. As I had mentioned I enjoy playing hockey so every Boxing Day I host a hockey tournament, called the Boxing Day Winter Classic, which is a group of all my buddies from junior high and high school getting back together again to play a little hockey and have a lot of fun.  Unfortunately, because of the pandemic it has been postponed for a couple of years now, but this year it will be coming back bigger and better than ever.  This year we have some local businesses and sponsors now coming on board and getting involved in the game and funds generated being donated to a local charity.  So like I said, spending time with family and friends, getting some traveling in, those are the kinds of things that I like to do in the offseason. 

Spotlight: You spend a lot of time promoting the game of football, whether it is at the minor or professional levels, why is that important to you? 

Brett Lauther:  I remember being a young kid and the impact it had going to Bearcat games and getting to talk to the players after the games or a part of a public skate or some other event.  Whenever current or former professional athletes or coaches came to our schools or took the time to speak with me, I remember how much it meant to me at that time. So, to be in a position where I can do that now means everything to me.  I guess it never feels normal to me that a kid would think that I am a big deal, but I was that kid.  Plus, it is so rewarding to see the kid’s excitement and the smiles on their faces. It is the best and I think it is one of the things that keeps me young.  Plus, it is fun for me because kids don’t always have a filter and they make me laugh so much just with what they say and the questions they ask, because it reminds me of when I was their age.  I don’t really think anything can replace it. I know a lot of the stuff or appearances that athletes do they might get paid for but putting a smile on a kid’s face is irreplaceable, there’s not a monetary amount you could put on that feeling. It is so rewarding in itself.

Spotlight: What mentors did, or do you have now?  Who inspires you and why? What advice do you have for athletes looking to take a shot at going professional?  

Brett Lauther: Wow, that is a tough one, because there is not just one person but many. My dad obviously growing up and even now as an adult.  But it’s like I said, the many coaches I’ve had from every level from high school, university and even now at the professional level to friends and family, there has never been a lack of motivation for getting up or getting in the gym. I feel like I’m very self motivated. But on some days, you’re not feeling it as much as others, so you just kind of have to think about all those people and how much they’ve done and sacrificed for you.  

As for advice, the biggest I can give is to work hard and stay dedicated.  It sounds cliche, but that’s all it really is. Even with myself, it’s just about keeping working hard and trying to figure things out. Everyone has a different path and a unique journey. And not everyone has a clear-cut path of how it is going to work out.  I’m a prime example of that from playing for a couple years to not playing for a few and staying focused and working hard and to make my way back. I guess something else I can add is people always try to say, and I think it’s the worst advice ever, ‘just be realistic.’ I think it’s the opposite, I say ‘don’t be realistic’ don’t limit yourself and just shoot for the stars. Because even if things didn’t work out, you’re still going to be in a better place than you were before. So, whether it’s sports or business or whatever you’re doing in life, just work hard and don’t listen to the negativity of others and always believe in yourself and what you want to do in life.

by Ryan Myson