Joel DeMale has the resume to be one of the top linebackers to come out of high school this season.
The 17-year-old Hunting Hills football star has consistently been an all-star no matter where he played, or at what level, and has twice been a member of Team Alberta. That would have been three times without Covid-19 shutting down the U18 season.
The University of Saskatchewan Huskies coaching staff recognized DeMale’s talents offering him a position, which he accepted Oct. 30.
“There was no tape this year because we were shut down, but I was lucky I played provincially and had a lot of tape from Grade 11 and Grade 10 which I sent it out to a lot of schools,” he explained. “I was always looking at the U of S because that’s where (Hunting Hills head coach) Kyle (Sedgewick) played and I heard good things about them.
“They contacted me and we talked several times and the rest is history.”
The six-foot-one, 210-pound DeMale became interested in the game in Grade 5 and played with the Red Deer atom and pee wee programs before joining the Hunting Hills bantam team.
He played quarterback when he was first involved then switched to running back until Grade 9.
“It was then I moved to linebacker, which I love,” he said.
In Grade 8 he first got the idea of making football his main sport and competing at the university level.
“Both my parents played at university as does my sister (Shea), so I decided I wanted to go in that direction as well,” he said.
The teen credits his coaches over the years for his development.
“They all inspired me to love the game and helped me develop my all-round game. They gave me a lot of incite into the game as well as into life.”
He has played both outside and middle linebacker and believes his ability to read the play helps his game.
“Last season when we played in the middle I seem to have a sense to know the play before it happens. It’s certainly a benefit.
DeMale expects to play the weak side linebacker in university, at least at the beginning.
“It’s a spot where you don’t blitz much but are more of a run stopper,” he said. “But playing linebacker incorporates all aspects of defence, where you have to stop both the run and pass. I love that.”
Joel has the speed and quickness to play whatever position they use him at and is working on his strength.
“We have a gym at home and I’ve been using the time off to get stronger. They sent me a program to work on my strength and conditioning.
“The game today is continuing to develop where you have to be faster and stronger.”
DeMale, like every other player, hasn’t played since 2019, but hopes to be back on the field in the spring.
“There’s still some hope we can run our league in the spring,” he said. “Provincials have been cancelled, but if it’s feasible our league will go, which would be amazing. If not it will be a long time between games.”
He’s also hoping there could be a high school track season. Last year he competed in basketball, handball and track and field and was named the Hunting Hills Male Athlete of the Year.
He competed in discus, pole vault, long jump and was on the 4×100-metre relay team in track.
“I think it’s important to play a variety of sports, it helps develop as many skills as possible, things you wouldn’t normally work on.”
Joel will take kinesiology and education at the U of S, hoping to one day teach and coach.
“When I’m finished playing that’s what I hope to do … give back to the game,” he said.
As of now he’s hoping his football career will be extended beyond university, possibly in the CFL.
“That would be awesome,” he said. “I think once you get a chance to play university you think about that and it has to be a goal, but we’ll see how it goes.”
DeMale is able to breath a bit easier as he knows where he’ll be in the fall, now he’s hoping several of his high school teammates will know their fate sooner rather than later.
Several of them are looking to play junior, which DeMale would have if he didn’t receive the U of S offer.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame. He can be reached at email@example.com.