Ben Mikoluff sees the game of football from a number of perspectives.
In addition to patrolling the field as a linebacker for the Kildonan-East Reivers, the 17-year-old East Kildonan resident also serves as an umpire for youth football games in the city.
Participating in the game in a few different ways has been beneficial for Mikoluff, who was recently honoured by the Winnipeg High School Football League with the Jim Foubister Award, which is given by league officials to a player demonstrating sportsmanship, teamwork, excellent play, and being a good person.
Reivers head coach Jason Hawkins nominated Mikoluff for the award, noting the steady progression he’s made as a player and leader helped drive the decision.
"I saw him maturing more and more in the three years he’s been with us, and then this year, it was solidified with the fact he’s a team captain," Hawkins said. "He never puts blame on anybody else, never complains about anything — he just goes out there and does his job."
Hawkins said Mikoluff often helped serve as an extra coach this year, showing teammates the right way to approach the game, but was otherwise primarily a leader by example. Hawkins noted Mikoluff also ingratiated himself to the referees, rarely, if ever, taking a penalty.
"I don’t remember him ever complaining about a call," Hawkins said. "He’s quiet as it is, but I think the fact that he’s in the position of a referee, he understands how difficult the job can be."
Mikoluff explained that as an umpire, he’s often watching the middle of the field and then taking a "go with the flow" approach as the play develops. He said this has given him a new appreciation for how plays tend to go, which helps him when he’s playing and taking an active role in stopping them.
"You see the start of a play, and because you’re getting ready to react, you read it as more ‘What do they do out of that start?’" said Mikoluff, who also earned the Kas Vidruk Division’s special teams player of the week award in Week 3 for his punting prowess. "You’re able to react, not faster, but you’re ready to do what you have to do faster."
There was a pall hanging over the Reivers this season, as recent graduate Christian O’Neail died suddenly in the days before the team’s first game of the season. With Mikoluff leading the squad as one of its captains, Kildonan-East managed to pull out a late victory over Portage Collegiate Institute with O’Neail’s father in the stands.
"The first game that we played was for Christian, and you could tell that’s the game we played the hardest for," Mikoluff said.
Mikoluff plans to attend Red River College for electrical engineering, and is looking forward to attending the Winnipeg Rifles rookie camp later this winter as he seeks to continue playing football after graduating Grade 12 this spring.