This story was published in the Winter 2023 issue of Total Sports Quinte magazine
Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Quinte
As he continues his own sports journey, Ben Maracle considers it important to be a role model for the young athletes currently growing up in Tyendinaga.
“Giving back to my community is what gives me purpose in a lot of ways,” said Maracle, who became a quarterback for the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees football team. “It gives me reason to go further with my career to learn more so that I can be the person to inspire and mentor members of the community when I am given the opportunity.”
Maracle, with help from his mother Jennifer and members of the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, hosted a Flag Football Clinic last year on June 18 at Quinte Mohawk School in Tyendinaga. Children six years old and up had the chance to learn skills and drills from Maracle and Argos player Deionte Knight. Argos legend, and current general manager, Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons was on hand to support the event as well.
“The camp in the summer could not have been done without the help of Mike Hogan and Justin Bobb from the Toronto Argonauts organization,” Maracle said. “The camp began after I did an interview with Mike Hogan on growing football in Indigenous communities and one thing that came out of the interview was how I wanted to give back so Mike reached out to me last summer and raised the idea of running a camp in Tyendinaga and I said absolutely.
“It was important for me to see this camp be established because I knew what it was like to grow up without seeing professional and USports athletes in person. I believe seeing, speaking and learning football from these people will inspire a younger generation from Tyendinaga to see where having a dream and pursuing it can take you.”
There’s no doubt it was a successful day and as far Maracle is concerned it won’t be the last.
“The best part was seeing the engagement the kids had with the sport which was the ultimate goal of the camp,” he said. “It showed me that there is an interest in the community to learn and be apart of the camp which motivates me to improve and grow the camp moving forward.”
Before Maracle began playing football, he first played basketball and lacrosse. For basketball, he was following in the footsteps of his brothers Stafford and Camden, who were exceptional players, he said.
“Like any younger brother, you tend to follow in your older brothers’ footsteps,” Maracle added. “This is what ultimately introduced me to football. Growing up I realized from an early age that I depended on my brothers when it came to decision making, so I made the decision to be different and try a different sport where I wasn’t being dragged along by my older brothers.”
Eventually he invested his time in football, playing high school for St. Theresa Catholic in the fall and club for the Kingston Grenadiers in the summer. When St. Theresa’s football program folded, he eventually switched schools, relocating to Ottawa to play for Football North Prep at St. Joseph’s High School before ultimately joining the Gee-Gees.
Maracle’s faced challenges in university as a student and athlete but has persevered and achieved great things.
“As a fifth year student now looking back, I’m thankful for all the mistakes I made because it shaped me into the student and the football player I am now,” he said. “I went from failing a class in my first year to a two-time academic All-Canadian studying for my degree in Honors in psychology with a minor in Indigenous studies.
Maracle will graduate from the University in Ottawa this spring and will also attend the CFL National Combine which will be held in Edmonton in March.
“I will put my skills on display and see if I have what it takes to play at the professional level,” he said. “As well, I plan to continue to grow my camp that had been started this summer with the hope to expand it beyond just Tyendinaga.”
Maracle said growing up in Tyendinaga he was surrounded by a big family, which gave him a strong foundation to grow from.
“My family has belonged to the Kenhtè:ke longhouse for as long as I can remember.” he said. “The longhouse people are just an extension of my family. I have always felt supported and loved in Tyendinaga.”