For Tristan Black, high school football was all about learning responsibility.
Of course, it was also a time of hanging out with his friends and playing a sport he loves.
But while the Toronto Argonaut said it was a great time of his life, it was also one of his biggest growing periods.
“I had a goal of going down to the United States and playing, and in Canada it’s not as structured as hockey and other things where the resources are there, so I had to do a lot of it on my own,” he said.
“I bumped my head on the way a couple times and didn’t do the right thing, but I learned, and it made me be a lot more responsible and learn how to do things for myself.”
High school athletics can be a positive experience for many, and Black said his time at Central Tech was important to his career. As captain of the football team, he took on a leadership role, and was named to the Toronto Star all-city list twice.
Following his experience at the Bathurst Street high school, he spent four years at Wayne State University in Michigan. The linebacker was then selected by the Calgary Stampeders in the 2009 CFL draft.
Black returned to play for his hometown team in an Aug. 21 trade to the Argos, and he couldn’t be happier to be back.
“I love it,” he said. “I get to go home and be around the people that were there when I started playing football. It’s really fun because my family’s around, my friends are around, and I actually have people that know me in the crowds sometimes.”
The 26-year-old’s football career began at the age of 12 with the North York Bandits. It took three years of begging before his mother finally allowed him to take the bus from their Queensway area home up to Bathurst and Finch, where the team was located.
The first day he received his equipment and jersey, he slept in it.
After he turned 14, Black started playing for the Scarborough Thunder. He recalls sometimes playing football for both his high school and club team in the same day.
“It was a lot of football and looking back it was really good for me,” he said. “I don’t know how I did that, I wouldn’t be able to do that these days. But I remember I just always wanted to be playing.”
He admits to not having gone back to the place of his high school success just yet, but he has reached out in a different way. After he was drafted, he ran a camp full of Toronto high school football players, many of them from Central Tech.
As someone who knows how valuable his high school time was, Black relishes trying to help others have that same experience.
“I know that they look up to me, just as I did, because when I was at Central Tech [fellow Argo and Central Tech alum] Adriano Belli came back and we looked up at him,” he said. “At this point I had to step back and see that the tables are turned, it’s my turn now, I’m in the position he was and people look up to me now.
“It’s cool that I get to be that guy.”