His Name is Tchissakid Dre Player and last Tuesday night, he was selected in the second round of the Canadian Football League draft by the B.C. Lions. He is the first proud member of Sagkeeng First Nation to be selected in the CFL draft.
Born in Winnipeg, Tchissakid Dre’s mom, Corinne Fontaine, is from Sagkeeng. His dad, Paul Player, was one of the finest basketball players ever to play for the University of Winnipeg.
These days, the young man known as T-Dre, has just completed a remarkable four-year career with the Northwestern State University Demons in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
This is a young man on his way to pro football stardom. A college football star who gets tremendous marks in school, he will get a great chance to make the Lions in 2014. However, when he was in high school, in Texas, T-Dre experienced racial discrimination from the inside.
“I was born in Winnipeg and moved to the Dallas area when I was about nine,” Player said recently. “It was pretty crazy with all the cultural differences I faced. I had big identity issues when I was young.
“There are not very many native people living down here. It was very difficult in high school because everybody was white, black or Mexican and I was none of the above.”
T-Dre did have four things going for him, however: he’s whip smart, he’s a great athlete, he’s a big, strong guy and he comes from a great family. His dad works for Child Protective Services in Dallas while Corinne is involved with the Army and Air Force exchange service.
His athletic genes have obviously come in handy. At 6-foot-6, 300 pounds he was one of the most imposing linemen in the Southland Conference, a 12-team NCAA mid-major conference that includes Lamar, McNeese State, Nicholls State, Southeastern Louisiana, Central Arkansas, UT Arlington, Stephen F. Austin, UT San Antonio, Sam Houston State, Texas State and Texas A&M Corpus Christi.
He also has a unique name, Tchissakid, one that comes from the Ojibwe language, meaning “Sooth sayer,” or “Magic man.”
“When I was still in my mother’s womb, my parents were looking at a sonogram and they said it looked as though I had waved or ‘chopped’ my hand on the screen,” T-Dre explained. “My dad did some research and came up with that name from that experience, because the indigenous sooth sayers or shamans use their hands as a way to emit energy. Say, if someone wanted their fortune told, a soothsayer would use special stones and shake them up in their hands before throwing them onto the table and interpreting the layout. It is unique.”
He played only one year of high school football and was sensational. He was a unanimous first-team All-District selection for a 12-1 team that was ranked as high as No. 3 nationally and No. 1 in the state of Texas under coach Joey McGuire. He also made the Honor Roll at Cedar Hill High School with a 3.2 GPA.
That set him up nicely for Northwestern State where he developed as an athlete, a student and as a person.
“In high school, I didn’t have a group to hang around with,” he said. “I pretty much stuck to myself and had a hard time fitting in with any of the groups. High school wasn’t easy for me.
“At university, it’s a lot different. In university, people are just people. First of all, they are all a lot smarter. Second of all, university students don’t care what you are or who you are. If you’re a good person, you’ll have plenty of friends. I feel I’ve really blossomed here.”
This year, he graduated from Pre-Law with Honors and received an A on his 74-page thesis. He was also the recipient of the 2013 Manitoba Aboriginal Youth Achievement Award.
“To me this represents so much more than sports,” said his mother, Corinne. “It is an incredible feeling to see your son achieve his goals but also knowing that he represents so many First Nation youth, he represents our people and will definitely represent Sagkeeng with honor.”
Not only has his family supported him, but also his First Nation is overwhelmingly proud of T-Dre’s accomplishments.
“I would like to thank the B.C Lions organization for giving T-Dre the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Chief Donavan Fontaine. “I have confidence that T-Dre will quickly demonstrate it was the right choice. I want to congratulate him and his family. I wish him a long prosperous career in the CFL and beyond.”
T-Dre is excited about the opportunities that are opening up for him.
“Football was a big part of the journey for me and still is,” he said. “But academics was always the goal. Thanks to football, I had a wonderful opportunity to get a very good university education. It’s always been important to me to make the best of my opportunities.
“There were a lot of bumps in the road for me. It was hard for me in high school and there was a lot of adversity along the way. But I overcame it and prospered. If any native person or underprivileged kid needs a role model or just somebody to look up to, I lead my life in a way that I think about that every day. I want to be a role model. I want kids to look up to me and I’m going to do the work that’s necessary to make the best of my opportunities.”