The proof will be on the field when the B.C. Football Conference season kicks off this July, but on paper it looks like head coach Bob Reist and his Valley Huskers have enjoyed a tremendous off-season.
Since securing the services of GW Graham senior Von Richardson earlier this month, Reist has been busy locking down another recruiting coup.
It’s now official that four members of the 2017 University of Manitoba Bisons are coming to Chilliwack.
The key name is Julian Wytinck, because of the position he plays.
The Huskers have found their quarterback, a player Reist describes as ‘the complete package.’ Standing six-foot-three and weighing 220 pounds, the Selkirk, Manitoba native has the measurables you look for in a pivot, with a rifle arm capable of making all the throws. Wytinck would have been heading into his third season with the Bisons, with a chance to fight for the starting job, but he believes the Huskers present a better opportunity to showcase his talents.
“I’ve known coach Reist for a while because he coached with the Bisons (before Chilliwack) and he’s coached with Recruit Ready in Manitoba,” Wytinck said. “So we’ve always had a good relationship, and I feel like going to the Huskers is a good way to get back to leading a team and leading an offense.
“It’s a unique opportunity to take the Huskers history and turn it around, and bring some wins to Chilliwack. That’s what really got me excited about this year.
Wytinck is bringing two receivers with him. Brandon Poulin and Anthony Dyck have the physical ability to be difference makers at the junior football level and they have a built in comfort level with their QB.
Poulin is a speedster in the slot, with the ability to cut on a dime and leave you eight cents change. No doubt the Huskers will be scheming up ways to get him the ball in open space and let him work. Anthony Dyck is a bigger-bodied (six-foot-three) and sure-handed receiver who excels at high-pointing the ball, stretching over defensive backs to make the grab.
“You throw Anthony a jump ball and he’s going to come down with it, and Brandon’s the guy where you throw him the quick slant and he just keeps on running,” Wytinck said. “Having existing chemistry with both those guys is going to be huge. It’s going to be great coming to Chilliwack and just being able to ball out from day one.”
Dyck saw action for the Bisons in 2016, but injuries (a torn ACL in 2016, a torn PCL in 2017) kept him off the field far more often than he was on it. Without the chance to show what he could do, the rangy receiver slid down the depth chart, and when Reist came calling, Dyck jumped at a change of scenery.
“It’s hard to explain, but I was just feeling like I was caught in quicksand. I kept getting injured and I needed a fresh start, to go somewhere new and find my game again,” Dyck explained. “I got calls from Julian and Brandon about this opportunity in February, and at that point I didn’t think I was going to play anywhere else. But the more I thought about it the more I thought, ‘Yeah, I have great chemistry with these guys and we could definitely do something.’”
The brashest of the trio is Poulin, who stands five-foot-eight but carries a Chilliwack-sized chip on his shoulder.
“The big thing is the chance for us to show that we should have been playing the whole time at the U of M,” said Poulin, who made the Bisons in 2016 as a walk-on out of Winnipeg’s Grant Park High School. “I took the last 86-man roster spot and the program built me into the player I am today, but I haven’t had the chance to showcase where I am.
“I was always overshadowed a bit by Jamel Lyles and Jesse Walker and all these B.C. Kids, and it was kind of hard to make a name for myself when I didn’t get that opportunity. So I feel coming to B.C. is a chance to showcase my talent and my passion and how I do things on the field.”
Poulin describes himself as ‘speed, speed, speed and heart,’ and said he routinely played every offensive, defensive and special teams snap in high school.
“Football is my life and when you see me play in B.C. you will see passion and heart and the smallest kid on the field trying the hardest every single play. I have such a high motor and I do not stop.”
Reist sees Poulin as an electrifying return man as well, but the fourth member of the Bison quartet may have the biggest impact on special teams in the quietest way.
Zach Esau is a long-snapping specialist who was part of the Langley Rams Cullen Cup championship team in 2014.
Esau had Reist as his special teams coordinator at the University of Manitoba and has known him since he was 14 or 15 years old. The two get along very well and when Reist reached out to see if Esau wanted to play for the Huskers, Esau said it was a ‘no brainer.’
“He’s an unbelievable coach and an even better man, and the opportunity to play in B.C. again, I couldn’t say no,” Esau said. “I’ve been playing football since I was six years old and that year, by far, was the most fun I’ve ever had, so when this offer came up I thought, ‘There’s no way I can’t take it’
“That Langley team was so tight. We were like brothers and I would have run through the wall for any of them. That’s what I’m hoping to bring to Chilliwack. I’m hoping we can be a family and win a Cullen Cup and maybe make a run at a national championship too.”
The four men expect to be in Chilliwack May 25-27 when the Huskers hold their annual Spring Camp at Exhibition Stadium.