VANCOUVER — You’d be hard pressed to find a B.C. high school student-athlete who started the current academic year in September more prepared to stretch the limits of a standard 24-hour day than Jackson Findlay.
And even though the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic have curtailed so many of the goals he had set for his senior year, both on the football field and in the classroom, the Vancouver College standout still found a figurative way to clap his hands and break the huddle with purpose.
“All the grades are kept apart and we’re separated into two learning groups, so it’s harder to experience that community environment you usually feel at Vancouver College,” says Findlay, a three-sport athlete who scores at the top of his grade in the classroom, serves as his school’s class president and is also heavily involved in community outreach.
“We haven’t been able to do as much as we’ve wanted at school,” he adds, “but the main thing we’re trying to get across is that we’re all fighting the same fight.. that we’re all in this together and we want to do the things that benefit everyone.”
For being the voice of his student-body in a time of tumult, for his history of heading out into his neighbourhood to help the less-fortunate, and for his best-laid plans in 2020 of never leaving the field for his defending B.C. AAA champion Fighting Irish football team, Findlay was last week awarded the BCSSFA’s 2020 Community Involvement Scholarship Award.
“This year was going to be a big one for me,” admits Findlay, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior who was pencilled in as his team’s starting long- and short-snapper, its punt returner, and as a starting defensive back and wide receiver. “I was going to be on the field a lot and I was really looking forward to it.”
Yet so deep and all-encompassing is Findlay’s overall mission, that he will leave an impact on his school and community without having taken a single live snap over his Grade 12 year.
He’s helped children with challenges build self-esteem through success on the baseball diamond near his home on the North Shore.
He’s helped raise funds and awareness for those in need through his leadership of the Seeding Hope Advocacy Group at VC.
He’s created conversation about wildlife and forest sustainability through his work at the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
“For me, I feel like I get rewarded in other ways,” says Findlay, who will carry on a deep family tradition of university football when he joins the OUA’s Western Mustangs in the fall. “Through it all, I have found that I have learned so much about other aspects of my own life. It’s made me a better person and a better communicator. I love to help other people, but I can also say that I have learned so much from them.”
No one knows better about the overall impact Jackson Findlay has had on every part of campus life than Irish head coach Todd Bernett.
And when it comes to football?
“High school football really missed out on seeing Jackson Findlay in 2020,” Bernett adds. “He was poised to be a Player of the Year candidate. What a great blend of intelligence and preparation combined with athleticism and football ability. There was so much he was skilled at in 2019. Routes, catching and play-making, open field tackling, coverage and ball tracking. He is going to be highly-valued at Western because of his versatility.”
And on top of that, Findlay has never lost sight of what it means to be a student-athlete, not only scoring 97 percent in his classes, but before the pandemic, historically following his football season by competing with Vancouver College’s basketball, and track teams as a three-sport, three-season competitor.
And speaking of history, Findlay has a lot of it at the school, so much so that his family roots can be traced back to the turn of the last century.
“McCormack Hall, I am pretty sure that’s named after my great, great grandfather,” Findlay says of a traditional place on the Vancouver College campus.
As Irish sports historian Bruce Jagger says, Findlay’s twice-great grandfather James D. McCormack “was one of the original benefactors of the school,” helping fund its construction starting in the 1920s.
The family roots don’t stop there.
His grandfather Greg Findlay, a VC alum, was a linebacker who played 12 years with the B.C. Lions and was a member of the Leos’ 1964 Grey Cup-winning team.
As well, his dad Anthony Findlay and uncle Brooks Findlay, both West Vancouver Highlanders, played at UBC and Portland State respectively, before playing in the CFL with Saskatchewan. Uncle Brooks also played with the Lions.
Findlay admits he’d love a shot to continue that tradition, and he feels joining the Mustangs will give him the best opportunity to excel both athletically and academically.
“I am looking at going into bio-med at Western, and through that possibly into med school,” he explains. “I’ve talked to a few of the past alums who have taken the same program at Western and they say it has prepared them so well for later in the life.”
There’s still a half-year-plus until the next chapter officially gets underway for Findlay, and although the pandemic has changed what for him had become an ingrained sports routine of fall to winter to spring, it would be very incorrect to say he’s rested.
His father Anthony has a background as a high-level trainer through his Level 10 Fitness business and Jackson has taken full advantage.
“He loves what he does and that rubs off on me,” the son says of training with his dad. “By playing three sports, I hadn’t been able to just lift since I came to VC and this year he has been making these programs for me, helping me at the gym, and on the field and it’s been awesome.”
The games may have stopped for the time being, but Jackson Findlay has somehow managed to keep all of life’s most important things in play.
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