McMaster hangs up the cleats
When Harry McMaster was named the winner of the Doug Aitchison Award in 2017 as the top high school football player in Niagara Falls, he stated his ultimate goal was to play in the Canadian Football League.
“I’ll go as far as this takes me,” he said, at the time.
The 6-foot-2, 198-pound wide receiver was able to reach that goal, getting drafted in the seventh round, 53rd overall in the 2018 draft by Edmonton. After his rookie season was cut short by a broken thumb in the preseason, the 27-year-old Niagara Falls native dressed for 12 games in the 2019 season before the 2020 campaign was sacked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ongoing pandemic has made the Saint Paul graduate decide to retire from football.
“It was just kind of taking a look at what this year would look like, while factoring in we missed the last year and I haven’t played football for over two years — I didn’t get a lot of action in my first year — and also with a new coaching staff coming in.”
That being said, it wasn’t an easy choice for the two-time Ontario University Athletics all-star to make.
“It was a really tough decision,” he said. “I didn’t have a contract for this upcoming season back in January and right around those contract talks we briefly talked about what we would do for the future. But with the season in question at that point, we thought we could put off the decision.”
About three weeks ago, he informed Edmonton he was retiring.
Despite his short career, he will have plenty of CFL memories that will last a lifetime.
“It is not going to be a lot of memories from games but it’s the teammates that I met. I met a lot of people from all over North America and from very different situations and some of the guys I spent a lot of time with.
“It is getting on flights for all your (road) games, staying in hotels, having the expectations of what pro sports is and having a lot of those expectations met. It was a really cool experience.”
The former Western Mustang, who won the Vanier Cup in 2017 and lost the Vanier Cup in 2018, will take a lot of football experiences into his future.
“From the CFL it will be a lot of the business aspect of sports but just from football in general, a lot of the skills and traits that I had throughout my football career are very transferable to what my next career will be,” he said. “The things that I used to be successful there will make me successful in my post-football career.”
The list of transferable traits are many including teamwork, preparation and sacrificing for the good of the team.
“Even more specific, it is working on different aspects of your game,” McMaster said. “Later on in my career, I really committed to becoming a good blocker and that took a lot of film study, a little bit of research, some coaching and then reps on top of reps to perfect it. With all that work going into one trait, I became very good at it and I wasn’t before.”
McMaster is still trying to figure out what comes next in his life.
‘That is what I am working on right now,” the geography graduate said. “I am going to take some time off. I just left a job that I was working until this point because I was expecting to go to camp so I have some time to work on this transition and sort out what the future holds.
“I have a bit of an idea on what I want to do and I definitely want to use my degree going forward, but I am not sure how specifically I want to use it.”
He is also considering coaching football as his next career moves forward. It will take awhile before his retirement from football sinks in.
“I am still keeping up with my workouts and stuff but I have a new standard for how my body needs to feel. I have taken a step back and even doing that is a little bit weird,” he said. “Once there are games actually happening again, I am sure that I am going to feel more different about it.”