Driving for his football future

Oak Park gridiron star making daily commute and turning heads


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Jerome Fouillard makes the same drive to Winnipeg every morning with one goal: to prevent his parents from ever having to spend another dime on his aspirations.

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Jerome Fouillard makes the same drive to Winnipeg every morning with one goal: to prevent his parents from ever having to spend another dime on his aspirations.

Fouillard commutes 90 minutes each day to Oak Park High School from his home in Marchand to suit up for the Raiders varsity football team.

It’s the twelfth grader’s first year of high school ball after playing nine years for community-organized teams in southeast Manitoba. His decision to enrol at Oak Park came after he was denied by Steinbach Regional Secondary School due to living too far outside of its region.


Jerome Fouillard hammers the sled at Raiders practice Tuesday. To get maximum production from a remarkable athlete Oak Park uses him on both offence and defence.

“I thought if I want to get noticed (by university and college football programs), I’m going to have to come to Winnipeg, so I decided that I’ll drive an hour and a half to school every day to get noticed,” Fouillard told the Free Press Tuesday.

“I really don’t want my parents paying for my schooling. I want to get that all paid for, and my parents have spent so much money on the football stuff. So I was like, ‘Might as well make the most out of it,’ right?”

While Fouillard, raised in a family of 11 (eight boys and three girls), has his sights set on football, he’s determined to get an education along the way. He said he’s leaning toward a career in physiotherapy, nursing or chiropractic because he “likes helping people.”

“I love playing football since forever and I wanted to get a free education on something I love doing,” he said. “And if I do make it pro, I get paid for doing something I love doing, right?”

A kid with a clear vision for his future, Fouillard has been equally impressive on the gridiron.

After wreaking havoc in opponent’s backfields as a defensive end for most of his life, the 6-2 215-pound senior is playing linebacker for the first time this season.

“It’s a work in progress,” said Fouillard, who hangs his hat on his fundamentals and technique. “I started last spring season when I came here, I was doing that. I had to adjust to a few things but now I think I’m pretty good at it.”

Head coach Chris Ollson could only chuckle while talking about Fouillard’s athleticism and versatility.

“He is that X-factor guy,” said Ollson, in his third year overseeing Oak Park’s varsity program. “Defensive-wise, he’s probably our leading tackler at the moment and he’s all over the field. No matter what position — we have him at both linebacker and a bit of defensive end right now — he just makes a crazy amount of plays. The way he can move laterally across the field, he’s such a for sure tackler, he’s almost impossible to block.”

Ollson said he heard about Fouillard through the grapevine but had no idea the talent he had landed until the team’s first preseason game against Grant Park.

“He was all over the field. He just looked like he was playing at a different level compared to everybody. And that was for sure the moment I was like, ‘OK, this kid, he’s special,’” Ollson said.

“He understands how much we appreciate him at this program because he’s just such a good example for younger players coming through, that you don’t have to be the flashiest, fanciest guy in the world. If you just play good football and you do the right things, it’ll take you a long way.”

To get his athlete around the ball as much as possible, Ollson created a package on offence where Fouillard is the quarterback or fullback. The first-year player also plays long-snapper, which is an ability Ollson believes could take him far in football, especially as a Canadian.

Fouillard’s efforts have already started to pay off. He currently holds an offer from the U of M Bisons and has been contacted by three other universities across the country.

“The players know and understand how much he sacrifices and he never complains, he’s at every single practice, on time, meetings, on time, he’s early. And everybody knows how good he is and everybody knows he’s got all these universities talking to him, and he’s one of the most polite, down-to-earth guys on our team,” Ollson said.

It appears only a matter of time before Fouillard is playing at the next level while getting a discounted — if not free — education in whatever field his heart desires. For now, he wants to bring the first triple-A crown to Oak Park since 2014.

“I wanted to come here and be a leader because the last few years they haven’t been winning,” Fouillard said.

“I wanted to make everybody better and make them want to win, and come out and make everybody have the opportunity to go far in football.”


Twitter: @jfreysam

Joshua Frey-Sam

Joshua Frey-Sam

Joshua Frey-Sam happily welcomes a spirited sports debate any day of the week.


Updated on Wednesday, October 5, 2022 8:00 AM CDT: Byline added

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