November 20, 2023

Rob Vanstone: Awards hat trick underlines Roughriders’ character and commitment to community

Saskatchewan Roughriders placekicker Brett Lauther helped to orchestrate another three during Grey Cup week. 

He was among a trio of Roughriders to be recognized with a character-based award leading up to Sunday’s championship game. 

On Thursday, Lauther received the Tom Pate Memorial Award shortly after teammate Brayden Lenius was presented with the Jake Gaudaur Veterans’ Trophy. 

The trifecta was completed on Saturday, when Jake Wieneke — like Lenius, a member of the Roughriders’ receiving corps — was honoured with Athletes in Action’s Gord Barwell Award. 

“This is always the award that you never expect to get, because it’s not something that you’re actively pursuing,” Jared LaCoste, the Roughriders’ team chaplain, said of the decoration that was bestowed upon Wieneke. 

“It’s a testament to who you are as an individual. It’s not something where people go into it and try to earn it. It’s a recognition of someone’s life and how they’ve carried themselves this year and leading into it as well.” 

Multiply that by three and you have the Roughriders’ collection of newly crowned award winners. 

“It just shows how much of an impact we have not only in our community, but nation-wide,” Lenius said. “It’s really a beautiful thing.” 

Lenius and Lauther are player ambassadors for the Saskatchewan Roughrider Foundation. The Foundation, led by Executive Director Cindy Fuchs, enhances the lives of young people throughout the province by emphasizing education, health and amateur football. 

“We just had our initial meeting about what we did last year and had all the ambassadors together,” Lenius said. “It’s kind of surreal. Cindy said we saw over 16,000 kids last year. 

“You see the impact that you have and you learn to connect. It’s an opportunity to talk to the kids and tell them our story and speak on the things that are tough, like mental health. You learn different traits and you get to build off those.  

“You put yourself in the fire of public speaking and being in front of kids and commanding a room and you build on all those qualities that I can carry with me as I continue my career and go on with the rest of my life.” 

That approach contributed to the selection of Lenius as the winner of the Gaudaur Trophy, which recognizes a Canadian-born player who best exemplifies the attributes of our country’s military veterans. 

Wieneke won an award that is presented annually to a CFL player who exemplifies Christian character and leadership on and off the field. 

Lauther received a prestigious award that recognizes a CFL Players’ Association member who demonstrates supreme sportsmanship and exemplary contributions to his team and community. 

That has been Lauther’s mission since 2018, when he became the Roughriders’ full-time placement specialist after bouncing around the league for an extended period. 

“I made two or three promises to myself when I wasn’t playing for those four or five years,” he said. “One of them was, ‘If I ever get a chance to play again and have the opportunity to give back, that’s one of the Number 1 things that I want to be able to do.’  

“I not only get to do that, but the team gives you the platform to be able to be yourself and go out in the communities and pass on a great message. 

“Having Cindy Fuchs, who is basically like a second mom to me out here, and what she has done with the Foundation and the work she does in the province, it made it a lot easier to get involved in the community.” 

The involvement extends to Lauther’s brainchild — the Roughrider Foundation Winter Classic charity hockey game. 

The inaugural event was held March 18 in Saskatoon, where the sequel will take place on Feb. 3 at Merlis Belsher Place. 

Lauther’s travels on behalf of the team and the Foundation have taken him as far as Sandy Bay — a 9½ hour drive from Regina. He and Lenius made that lengthy trip to meet with and inspire youngsters. 

“If you look at how many of the guys stay in the province now, they’re involved with Rider Reading and Win with Wellness and some of the other programs that the Riders do, I don’t think there’s any professional or minor league team that comes close to what they’re doing here in Saskatchewan,” Lauther said. 

“It’s just another reason I couldn’t be more proud to play for this organization and to wear green.”