“I wanted to play for the home team, ” Jas Dhillon exclaims. “I wanted to be a homegrown kid who gets my represent my community.” The 26-year-old UBC graduate was born and raised in Surrey, BC and is living out his dream as offensive linesmen for the BC Lions. The journey getting there was not an easy one. Jas began perfecting his craft almost two decades ago and has since put fourth countless hours of gruelling practise and intense training to lead him to his position today.
The 6 foot, broad-shouldered football powerhouse defies all stereotypes of the “typical” professional athlete. He is smart. He is humble. He is incredibly kind-hearted.
What’s the worst part of his job? How did his upbringing affect where he is today? What are his views on performance enhancing drugs? Find out in Jas Dhillon’s exclusive interview with Desi Today where he unveils the secrets behind the helmet.
Does it feel any different playing for your hometown rather than Toronto?
Without a doubt, Toronto gave me the opportunity to become a professional athlete. They saw something in me that I didn’t realize I had in myself until very recently. For that, I am forever grateful. I am grateful to Toronto and the entire organization of the Argonauts for giving me the opportunity to live my dream.
But make no mistake about it, I wanted to be a BC Lions player. I wanted to play for the home team. I wanted to be in the position I am now, where I get to be a homegrown kid that gets to represent my community. It’s huge. There are so many people I grew up playing with that I now see rooting for me and it’s amazing. The support structure, the overall atmosphere, it’s much more fitting for me.
What’s the best and worst part of being a professional athlete?
The best part would be being able to represent the Indo-Canadian community and overall being one of the few Indo-Canadians at the forefront of sports. It’s amazing. The worst part, which sort of goes hand in hand, is the pressures and expectations that come along the way. I’m in no way stepping onto the field to play for anyone but myself and sometimes that’s hard for people to understand that. I love to represent my community but at the end of the day I’m not doing this for anyone but myself. But for the most part, being able to play football professionally is probably the biggest blessing of my life.
Growing up, I always played defensive end and defensive tackle. This means that my primary job was to pretty much stop the run and sac the quarterback.That position came with a lot of limelight and it came with a lot of accolade. You get noticed more because you have a statistic that people are following.
As an offensive lineman, your sole job is to protect the quarterback and to create paths for the run. We really don’t have measurable statistics that we get rated by. The other thing about being an offensive lineman is that it’s a super cerebral position: you have to know each play inside and out and be able to adapt on the fly to things you may have never seen before. In that sense, I liked being an offensive lineman because you have to be really quick on your feet and really understand the game.
In comparison, being a defensive lineman was really fun, too, because you basically pin your ears back and get after the quarterback as fast as you can. So both really have their pros and cons.
There seems to be a trend toward athletes turning to steroids for performance enhancement. What are your thoughts?
Performance enhancement is a really sticky subject because there are so many varying schools of thought on it. If you look at sports as a whole and if you look at the evolution of sport itself, you can see that athletes in general are held to a higher regard now than ever before. They’re expected to put out higher numbers as well. So if you think about it in that sense, I can see where the pressures on an athlete would start to transpire and where they would think, “okay, if I take these performance enhancers, I’ll be able to produce those numbers and be part of the norm.” However, do performance enhancers have a place in sports? I don’t think so.
As soon as you make the playing fields unequal, there’s no fairness left. I mean, I personally wouldn’t care if an athlete is putting steroids into their bodies, it’s definitely something I think that needs to be thoroughly researched because you are putting a foreign substance into your body.
You really need to be prepared about what happens next and if you’re an athlete that gets busted, you have to be ready to suffer the consequences. If you get busted in the CIS, you’re banned for 5 years. You wouldn’t be able to play college football after that. At UBC we were so restricted that we couldn’t take certain cough medicines–we couldn’t take Nyquil or Advil Cold & Sinus because they had certain ingredients that were restricted. All in all, you have to be careful about what you put into your body and what the outcomes will ultimately be.
You’ve played countless football games in your career thus far, what has been your proudest win?
You know, that’s really hard to say. There are lots of games that I’ve played in that were very high stakes and they went 50/50: sometimes we won and sometimes we lost. One thing I was always proud of was the players I was playing beside. I loved my time at UBC and I still sit back and think about my times there and I still talk to my friends who play at UBC today. Being around those types of guys and being immersed in that environment, those are moments I’m never going to get back. I can’t pinpoint one specific game, but my proudest season was my season at UBC.
One thing about being an Indo-Canadian, especially a male born in central Surrey is that there are so many things going against you: you’re going to be stereotyped, you’re going to be expected to get into the gang life, or become a pothead, or just to do something stupid. There were all these negative associations with being an Indo-Canadian male.
So, for me growing up, it was always at the forefront of my mind to break that stereotype. In high school I kind of walked to the beat of my own drum and never really did anything to conform to what was socially accepted at that time. There’s a reason I transferred out of Princess Margaret Secondary and went to Sands Secondary. It wasn’t because I was kicked out or even because I was hanging out with the wrong crowd, I really wanted to make a strong statement about what I was doing and how I was serious about playing.
Being an Indo-Canadian has also given me the responsibility to uphold my family’s name, my name and even the name of our people. There aren’t very many Indo-Canadians playing sports professionally right now so the responsibility is always tenfold for us. I do try to analyze and critique everything I do before I do it because, ultimately, I want to be the best role model out there. I want kids to be like, “Hey, that guy could do it, so I can too.”
I want kids to believe that it’s very possible to be a professional athlete. I truly believe that if I can get to this point, that there is potential for youths to follow and do the same. I think over time we’ll see a wave of Indo-Canadians coming into sports and I think what we were initially lacking was some sort of a role model to emulate and to make us understand that it’s possible.
Is there any other sort of message you would like to give to our readers?
For all the youth, I just want to say that it doesn’t matter what sport you’re playing or what you’re doing as long as your heart is in it. My only message is that you have to do whatever it is you have to do to be the best at your sport of craft. Whatever it may take: hiring a trainer, working on your diet, whatever you need to reach your goal, put in the hours to get there. Make your dreams a goal and put your all into making your dream a reality.