Sports

OLD MAN AND THE TEE

Gair Maclnnis is the oldest guy currently playing Canadian university football

JOHN INTINI November 14 2005
Sports

OLD MAN AND THE TEE

Gair Maclnnis is the oldest guy currently playing Canadian university football

JOHN INTINI November 14 2005

OLD MAN AND THE TEE

Sports

Gair Maclnnis is the oldest guy currently playing Canadian university football

JOHN INTINI

GAIR MACINNIS, Acadia University’s rookie place-kicker, admits he’s not a big fan of the hip-hop music that blasts from the locker-room speakers on game day. “I’m a child of the metal days,” says Maclnnis, who grew up on Mötley Crüe and Iron Maiden, back when many of his fellow Axemen were still in diapers. Maclnnis, nicknamed “Old Man,” is 34 years old—the oldest guy currently playing Canadian university football and one of the oldest rookies in league history. Before cracking Acadia’s starting roster this fall,

Maclnnis, a master’s student in recreation management at the Wolfville, N.S., school, had never played organized football. “I’ve played soccer all my life,” says the veteran rugby player. “So there was never a question of whether I had enough leg.”

He did, however, suffer rookie jitters during the season opener against the Saint Mary’s Huskies— incorrectly lining up his first career field-goal attempt. His performance since has noticeably improved. During the regular season, Maclnnis nailed 11 of 18 field-goal attempts (his longest was a 36-yarder) and was perfect in all 31 extra-point tries—making him the Atlantic conference’s most prolific scorer, with 64 points.

His powerful right foot—size IOV2— is one of the reasons Acadia finished first in its division at 5-3, securing home-field advantage for the conference championship game on Nov. 12.

Much like his introduction to football, Maclnnis’s post-secondary education also started later in life—he enrolled as an engineering student at the University of Prince Edward Island when he was 29. “That lasted about three math classes,” he laughs. “After that, I switched to English and then to psychology before transferring to Acadia in second year.”

Before university, Maclnnis had a number of different jobs. He worked on the Confederation Bridge between P.E.I. and New Brunswick and later moved to Alberta to work in the oil fields. In 1999, he was a high-

rise window cleaner in Calgary prior to heading back east for school. Maclnnis had always wanted to play football, but his high school in Charlottetown didn’t have a team and as an undergrad he had too many other commitments to afford the time. His graduate schedule proved more flexible.

Having maintained his conditioning over the years, Maclnnis didn’t think keeping up

with the younger guys would be all that tough. But the repetition of kicking took its toll. “Little things are starting to wear out,” he says. “Every week there was somethingfirst my hamstring, then my groin, then my knee. There were a lot of muscles I hadn’t used in a long while.” But as the season wore on, most of the pain faded. His teammates claim he has special powers. “They call it old-man strength,” says Maclnnis, who stands six-foot-one and tips the scales at a linebacker-like 234 lb. “You know when you’re a kid and you think that your dad is the strongest man in the world— the idea that older guys are naturally strong.” A married man with a mortgage, he’s certainly mature enough to know his limits off the field (meaning the pub). “I don’t even try to keep up,” says Maclnnis. “I usually drive, so I just hang out at the bar after games for a little bit and sometimes give the guys a lift home afterwards.”

For Maclnnis, it’s just part of being one of the boys. During training camp, he proved himself a good sport and active participant in the team’s rookie show. “Gair is probably our best singer,” says Shad McLachlan, 24, a fifth-year linebacker. “When another rookie struggled with a song, Gair was always the first to jump in, usually with his guitar, and bail him out.” In October—Acadia’s rookie moustache month—Maclnnis went all out, trimming the facial hair around his mouth and neck to resemble end-zone uprights. And what did his wife think? “She just said, ‘It’s your face and you’re the one that has to walk around with it.’ ”

When he’s not piling Axemen into his green 2003 Honda Civic, working on his thesis (leisure education in the prison system), renovating the home he and his wife bought in August or playing football, Maclnnis works as a teacher’s assistant. “It’s great,” he says. “I’ve been able to tell some of my teammates, ‘Listen boys, you can’t be hard on me this week—I have your paper to grade.’ ” ITU