SURREY — Nick Giffen is the offensive lineman who is proud to say that a lot of his football mojo comes from the dojo.
And although you’ve got to take the Simon Fraser Clan’s rising freshman tackle through a long line of questioning before he reveals the fact that he in fact holds a black belt in karate, that, in and of itself, is a direct reflection of the humility gleaned through spending his formative years in the practise of the ancient Japanese art of combat.
“Yes, it is a part of my story,” begins Giffen, 17, a senior at Surrey’s Holy Cross Regional Secondary who gained that status three years ago and even occasionally teaches the art. “It’s helped me learn maturity and discipline. With it comes the cliché of ‘Yes, coach.’ But from it, I have also learned about what it means to have respect for your coach.”
That’s a big-picture view that has to be music to ears of any gridiron sensei.
Yet the biggest mistake anyone will ever make about the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Giffen is to stereotype him by the position he mans in a sport he had never played until he walked through the front doors of Holy Cross back in the fall of 2013.
Born to parents who have forged careers in business management, Giffen will undoubtedly cast one of the biggest shadows among incoming students in the prestigious Beedie School of Business 2018-19 freshman class.
“He takes Marketing 12 and PE 12 with me so I get to say ‘Hi’ every day,” says his resident sensei, Holy Cross teacher and head senior varsity football coach Conrad Deugau. “He makes me laugh, and he makes my hair turn a little more grey. He’s a big personality. A big guy with a big laugh. And when you pull him aside to talk, he is that super-humble kid with the huge work ethic.”
TEAM B.C. BUILDS HIS CONFIDENCE
Based on his resume alone, Nick Giffen is a prospect ready to grow into a university football career.
Yet for those talent evaluators who took the time to look a little deeper, there came the discovery that the tread on Giffen’s so-called football tires was barely worn.
“I always had this kid in class who kept asking me to come and play football,” Giffen remembers of his elementary school days at Our Lady of Good Counsel in the Whalley neighbourhood of Surrey. “But I did karate when I was younger. That was my childhood sport. I didn’t start playing football until I came (to Holy Cross) in Grade 8.”
When you consider the amount of youth community programs, that’s a little hard to imagine, especially because by the time he left Our Lady of Good Counsel, he was a 6-foot-2, 220-pounder.
“The first time I played (football) it was overwhelming,” adds Giffen. “I was a gentle giant. But then I started to take it all in stride.”
So much so that by 10th grade he had joined the senior varsity and begun to adopt a truly aggressive on-field demeanour.
Following his Grade 11 campaign, he made Team B.C. as its starting right tackle.
“I was humbled by that opportunity,” Giffen says. “I spent a lot of time in the weight room, I got faster, my technique got better. The whole summer (of 2017) was very beneficial to getting my name out there and then being able to back it up.”
And although his senior season (1-4 league, 1-7 overall) was incredibly tough for all concerned, Giffen took huge pride in the energy he was able to create through his growing leadership ability, and by the fact that he helped the Crusaders beat Hugh Boyd 24-7 for the team’s lone win on the final day of the regular season.
In the end, the next-level coaches did take notice, and for Giffen, the opportunity came to join a Simon Fraser Clan team under the guidance of incoming first-year head coach Thomas Ford, who called him “the top tackle we signed in this year’s class.”
“He is one of those guys that will be a cornerstone for the future of our program,” Ford told Varsity Letters. “With his athleticism and his physicality, he’s a guy we had to get for us to make our mark in B.C. He is a very good prospect at tackle moving forward.”
GIVING US THE BUSINESS
Bring up the academic side of the equation, and Giffen speaks as passionately as an O-lineman who has just collected a pancake block.
As a part of his marketing class under Deugau, Giffen is taking part in the class’ annual stock market challenge, and for a guy headed to the Beedie School this fall, he’s already showing his business acumen.
“We started our practice round and my investments have already starting making money,” he says of building on a mythical $100,000 bank roll.
“My first thought was to have something I consider very reliant, so I invested in Amazon,” he begins. “It was pretty expensive, but that is where a lot of my growth came from. From there, I decided to go with something a little less expensive, but was still a big company. That was Loblaws, and it went up, too. I just wish I was using real money.”
Giffen comes by his love of business honestly, as he explains:
“My dad started as a cashier at 17 at Shopper’s Drug Mart and he has worked himself all the way up to a district manager,” Giffen begins. “My mom started at the same place but now she’s a project manager at Pharmasave.
“I have never been forced into it, but the way I have grown up, it’s put me on my path,” he continues. “I’ll see where it takes me. I love the creative side of it, coming up with my own ideas, so maybe the road will lead to marketing one day.”
That is unless football presents some interesting professional choices after his Clan career is over.
“I’ve already put on a healthy 20 pounds since the end of the season just from lifting,” says Giffen. “The coaches want me to get heavier, and I think getting to a healthy 275 is within my grasp. Plus, karate has helped keep me pretty light on my feet.”
Nick Giffen is the kid who brings a black-belt mentality to the football field while pursuing his love of business in the classroom.
He shatters enough clichés that it’s a disservice to simply call him the Karate Kid.
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