After a red-shirt season in the NCAA the potential for a fruitful spring is in limbo for an Okotoks area quarterback.
Quarterback Cameron Fietz, a transfer from UBC and walk-on red shirt with the Pac-12’s University of Arizona Wildcats for the 2019-20 season, was supposed to be competing for playing time at spring camp until the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
“I had to sit out a year because of my scholarship at UBC and this spring camp was going to be my opportunity to fight for that starting position,” said Fietz, a 2017 graduate of Holy Trinity Academy. “However, it’s unfortunate this whole COVID-19 situation kind of took that away so the whole team, the entire NCAA is playing it by ear as of what’s going to happen for next season.
“So it will be interesting to hear what happens with that and my opportunity with that.”
As a transfer, Fietz red-shirted and did not see game action for the Wildcats during the 2019 season, but was able to learn a great deal on and off the gridiron at the Tucson based university.
The Wildcats compete in the Pac-12 against top schools including Oregon, UCLA and Washington State with a passionate fan-base at the Arizona Stadium.
“For our homecoming game and upset against Texas Tech we definitely packed the stadium, I want to say around 50 thousand people and our Jumbotron is known to be one of the biggest in Pac-12, it’s a beautiful stadium,” he said. “As far as the atmosphere goes, there’s nothing like it, you can’t compare it. I’m definitely living the American dream with the college experience and the camaraderie with the team and the support you have from the university itself and the city itself being a college focused city.
“You definitely have a lot of support and feel it at our games and in the university experience in general.”
He worked his way south after making a few stops along the way in his football journey.
After graduating from high school, Fietz played with the Calgary Colts junior football team in 2017 and then was recruited to the Midwest Prep Academy in Champagne, Illinois where he worked extensively on the quarterback craft for one semester.
“Midwest Prep allowed me to really grow with my knowledge for American ball and make that transition to open up the window and pursue the collegiate level in the U.S. – which was my ultimate goal in the first place,” he said. “With academics also being important for me, my best option was to commit to UBC.”
From there, the athletic lefty committed to the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds for the 2018 season and spent one season on the west coast, learning the trade from an experienced coaching staff led by Blake Nill and starting quarterback Michael O’Connor – a highly touted recruit out of Penn State and a first-round draft pick by the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts.
“I did a red-shirt season there and really grew,” Fietz said. “Just having (O’Connor) as a quarterback and being able to pick his brain throughout the season and seeing how his transfer went from IMG High School in the U.S. to Penn State to UBC. I’m kind of doing the flip of that so it was really interesting being able to pick his brain and the mindset of the quarterback and how he goes through his progressions.
“I was really able to grow in that area.”
In Vancouver, Fietz joined forces with a former crosstown rival in former Foothills Falcons quarterback Trey Kellogg, a receiver on the Thunderbirds.
The 6-foot-2, 200 pound quarterback accepted an offer to go back south of the border for the 2019 season to join the Wildcats.
The 21-year-old put himself on the Arizona radar by seeing action behind centre at Midwest Prep along with getting playing time in the Thunderbirds’ all-star game versus a squad from Mexico.
“Those combined with my practice film really gave me enough exposure and experience to be able to compete at the Pac-12 level,” he said. “I still continued to pursue an opportunity down there as once you’re at the college level and have that red-shirt season it opens up the window for you to enter the transfer portal, which is what it’s called in the NCAA.
“With that I still kept my doors open and continued to pursue American universities and U of A was the best opportunity to compete, with a senior quarterback graduating.”
As the Wildcats sought some experience behind centre, Fietz was flown down and showcased his abilities for the coaching staff which progressed into the ultimate transfer coming to fruition.
A finance student at UBC, Fietz is now majoring in Management Information Systems as Arizona boasts the top ranked MIS program in the country among public universities and third ranked overall.
“It was a better route for me to take what is more nationally recognized than to just take a finance program where every university kind of offers that,” he said. “To specify in that was a really unique opportunity that I took advantage of.”
Impressively, Fietz didn’t grow up playing the position, only taking over behind centre for HTA in his Grade 11 season due to a few injuries at quarterback.
He showed tremendous improvement going into his senior year, guiding the Knights’ 2016 team to the Big Rock Final and picking up MVP honours along the way.
He was sure to reach out to his former coach Matt Hassett when the Knights captured their first provincial championship in late November.
“Just seeing how awesome it is for that program to grow and for that program to be successful it’s driven by a very successful coaching staff,” Fietz said. “Just to see the progression that Coach Hassett has taken that program with both their funding and uniforms to their record is awesome to see.”
Given the experience on both sides of the border, Fietz is comfortable playing both three and four down football though the American game and its intricacies is certainly fresher in his mind.
“My knowledge on football has shot through the roof by attending U of A and having Power Five coaches,” Fietz said. “I’ve played both at the collegiate level, at the highest level so with that my knowledge right now is on American ball.
“But it’s not difficult for me to transfer back and forth now that I’ve experienced both.”
On the COVID-19 file, Fietz and the Wildcats players are getting regular updates for when things could get rolling again with patience a valued virtue at the moment.
Arizona’s schedule before the pandemic struck had them opening the 2020 season in late August versus the University of Hawaii.
In the meantime, Fietz has been making the most of time north of the border and practising with some Calgary Stampeders, along with ex-Stamp Nick Arbuckle
“It’s definitely a goal I’ve been aiming for since high school,” he said of NCAA football. “So it’s awesome to be able to make it a reality and continue to pursue it.
“It’s definitely going to be interesting getting back to main camp, depending on when that starts and when our season starts.”
With files from Bruce Campbell