In the heart of Texas for an international football tournament, six-foot-three, 215-pound linebacker Andrew Pauls was stopped by a cluster of American girls as he entered a practice stadium in San Antonio.
“So you’re playing, like, soccer,” one girl teased. “You have football in Canada?”
Selected to Team B.C., Pauls and fellow Vancouver College running back Liam Mahara are in the U.S. this week for the inaugural Football University Games, an international tournament added to the elite U.S. Army-sponsored All-American Bowl that draws nearly 40,000 fans to watch the 90 best American high school football players at the Alamodome.
Teams from Mexico, Europe, B.C. and the U.S. play for pride and the eyes of college recruiters.
“It’s one of the coolest things I’ve done so far,” said Pauls.
“The intensity isn’t something I’ve experienced in Canada,” said Mahara, “but I really like it. I want to play the best football that I can because I know that a lot of people are watching. I and my teammates want to show that football in Canada is really something to watch out for.”
Team B.C. plays Team Europe at 3 p.m. Thursday and Team USA at 5:15 p.m. Saturday night at San Antonio’s 65,000-seat Alamodome. (The games will be streamed online at playfootball.bc.ca.)
As a running back with Vancouver College, Mahara broke seven school rushing records and wit 35 touchdowns, set a new benchmark with 35 touchdowns in a single season.
Team B.C. head coach Tom Kudaba took a pared-down roster of 36 athletes to San Antonio, selecting the Fighting Irish starters for their athleticism.
“They have the versatility to play on both sides of the ball,” he said. “Both of them are easy to coach, smart kids and their football IQ is high.”
Pauls, who started with the Westside Warriors and graduated to play for Vancouver College and is now considering offers from university programs, said competing against Americans on their own turf will be an important test.
“We are playing very tough competition,” he said. “The biggest thing is seeing how good these All-American players are and what I can do myself to reach that higher level.”