Birds of A Feather

HAMILTON, ON - OCTOBER 27:Justin Howell #21 of the Ottawa Redblacks tries to tackle Terrell Sinkfield of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during a game at Tim Hortons Field on October 27. 2018. (Photo by John E. Sokolowski/Getty Images)
A Q&A with former Carleton Ravens and current Ottawa Redblacks Justin Howell and Nate Behar. By Liam Fox

What is it like having so many former Ravens on the team together this year?

JH: It’s been special, reconnecting with former teammates. Definitely fun having some guys on the team who I’ve played with, and shared so many memories with. Also helps even up the crosstown rivalry in the room, last year it was 4v1 now it’s 4v4.

NB: It’s an amazing feeling having a handful of Ravens on a professional team because it’s a testament for us that what we created at Carleton was special. Also never hurts to have more guys to chirp the GeeGees in the locker room

What made you choose Carleton University and the City of Ottawa for your university football career?

JH: I was very skeptical of Ottawa, and Carleton at first. To be honest my first choice was Western and I was pretty set on going there. However, as soon as I stepped foot on campus and saw the city of Ottawa I immediately felt at home. I knew this was where I wanted to spend the next 4-5 years, and luckily enough it’s now year 6 and counting.

NB: My visit with Carleton in 2012 was my first time stepping foot in Ottawa and I fell in love right away. It blew me away as a city, how beautiful it was and I haven’t looked back.

To Nate, who signed with the Redblacks in free agency. What brought you back to Ottawa this offseason?

NB: The chance to play for this organization in the city I want to make home for many years to come.

How would you describe your game?

JH: Physical, hard working

NB: I play football with my head more than anything else. I’ve always enjoyed the X’s and O’s and I like to bring that with me as a receiver at every level.

Tell me about your hometown and what it was like to learn the game of football where you are from?

JH: Bradford was just an introduction to the game. It wasn’t very popular in my town. Most people played hockey and soccer. I ended up playing in high school after one of the coaches dragged me out to the practice field to try it out. I didn’t take it serious at first – it was just something I did for fun. I played soccer competitively and that was my main focus at the time. It wasn’t until my senior year that I decided to pursue football. The more I played the more I loved the game, and I realized I had the potential to go on and play at the University level.

NB: London was great for football. We had a phenomenal youth league called the London Minor Football Association that was driven by passionate volunteer coaches who really made a lot of kids fall in love with the game.

Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What is something that you have experienced in your first couple of years in the CFL that you did not foresee when you first came into the league?

JH: Probably the camaraderie and dynamic of a CFL locker room. It’s such a diverse group of people who all come together for one common goal. It’s special, everyone’s got a story, everyone’s got knowledge and experience in one thing or the other. You learn a lot. It’s one of the things I appreciate most about the game.   

NB: It’s difficult to grasp how long and grueling a CFL season is before you endure one. You play 8 games in university in Canada and in the CFL there are 21 regular season weeks when you take into account byes.

If you could go back and tell your younger self something when you first went to Carleton, what would you say?

JH: I’d probably say keep working hard and enjoy the moment, all your work will pay off one day.

NB: Never be satisfied. I always worked hard, but there’s always room for more.

What’s your go-to pregame ritual?

JH: I usually try to read a bit first or watch some Netflix—helps ease my mind. Then I’ll get into my game day playlist when I start my pre game warm-up routine. Each game is different though, it really depends how I’m feeling. I just try to listen to my body and address its needs.

NB: Nothing too crazy! Just a good meal – something fresh and light. Then a quick meditation before my movement prep and stretching begins.

What’s your favourite tattoo you have gotten and is there one you regret?

JH: I love all my tattoos. My favourite would definitely be the lion and koi fish on my forearm I recently got for my family. Shout out to Nate McDonald at Barnstormer Studio!

NB: You never want to regret a tattoo, and I certainly don’t, but there were a few made more spontaneously than others. My favourite is my Jimi Hendrix tattoo of him playing at Woodstock on my right leg. Greatest musician of all-time.

What gives you motivation when you are having one of those days?

JH: My family. My mother especially, she’s the strongest person I know. She sacrificed so much for myself and my siblings growing up. She worked multiple jobs at a time trying to provide as a single parent. A lot of times the only time I’d get to spend with her was when she was bringing me to practice because she was so busy with work. She’s definitely my inspiration, and a source of motivation on my tougher days.

NB: The fact that I’m doing something I know my younger self would be proud of, and that my older self would be angry at if I ever messed up. As well as the very real feeling I carry with me that I haven’t hit my potential yet and I have to get there for my own sanity, it keeps me locked in when the dog days of the season hit.

You are now halfway through the 2019 CFL season, what does a successful second half to the season look like for you?

JH: Continuing to improve as a player and doing anything I can to help my team win football games.

NB: Making the plays that come my way and helping this team get to the playoffs.



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