Dustin Lander may have just started his football career, but his desire to never quit has already driven him forward.
The 6-3, 195-lb. receiver just completed his first season with the Bishop's University Gaiters. Lander was red-shirted this season, meaning he practiced with the team, but was not eligible for game action. Because of his red-shirt status, Lander retains his five years of CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) eligibility.
Lander, 18, started his playing career with the Pemberton Grizzlies in 2012, but didn't play receiver in his first season as the team lacked linebackers. In 2013, Lander moved to his position of choice and scored 11 touchdowns.
As a community team, the Grizzlies weren't able to roll out a full complement of specialized-position coaches, like the Gaiters. But Lander, a self-admitted "raw athlete," said he's been able to pick up on the intricacies of the position and make major strides already.
"The progressions that I've had here in these couple months of the season have been just crazy — I've gotten a lot better," Lander, a business student, said.
Lander described his role model as Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, whom he admires for both his skill and work ethic.
"He never gives up on the play. He's always open. He's always there to make plays," Lander said.
With his mind on Lander's potential, Bishop's head coach Kevin Mackey said the receiver's large frame is a canvas for a potential masterpiece.
"He's your typical big receiver, so that's something you can't teach," Mackey said. "We're working on his hands and his route-running and his speed. He'll be able to work on that in the wintertime, and we'll see how it goes in the spring."
Mackey said Lander has excelled on the field and in the classroom, and has been impressed with how much he has soaked in during the first year, especially considering the leap from the Grizzlies.
"He's got the playbook down, he doesn't have to think as much, and he's making more plays on the practice field," Mackey said.
Mackey said some players red-shirt for two seasons, but with the Gaiters' season having just wrapped on Nov. 1, the team hasn't decided how to proceed with Lander next season and will see how he performs in spring camp.
Working on his hands, strength, and speed, Lander is determined to crack the Bishop's roster full-time next year.
"Things are looking pretty good and I'm developing very quickly," he said. "I hope to say I'd be able to play next year."
With well over half the team members in their freshman or sophomore campaigns, the young Gaiters struggled, posting a 1-7 record while being outscored 332-82. However, Mackey said he has worked to keep enthusiasm up among the younger players, including Lander, who he said will play key roles in the team's success in coming seasons.
"I think our team will be very good in the next couple years," Lander said. "I feel like I can definitely be a part of that."