Pasqua First Nation football player excels on and off the field
- Local Journalism Initiative - NC Raine | December 13, 2023
Allan Lafond Jr’s love for football has taken him across Canada and while pursuing his own educational goals he’s helping to educate others about Indigenous issues.
“As athletes, we’re given a platform that we can use for something bigger than sports,” the Dalhousie Tigers defensive lineman, told Eagle Feather News.
Lafond, 22, is the first to admit the journey hasn’t been easy.
He’s battled devastating injuries, and subsequent doubts, but for him, it’s never been just about football.
Culture is important to Lafond and so is Reconciliation.
“People see the games – they are broadcast, there’s photographers there,” he said. “So, I try to do something that helps bring more awareness to important issues.”
The 5-foot-10 football player often runs on the field carrying an Every Child Matters flag before games. He wears a painted red handprint over his mouth to symbolize the ongoing silence of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG)
“Every year on National Reconciliation Day, I would talk to the team pre-game and tell them what the day means,” said Lafond. “A lot of guys would come up to me and ask me questions, they want to know more. So, I did my best to teach people whenever I could.”
Despite his athletic talents, getting to and staying on the football field has been a battle.
“A lot has happened over the past few years at Dalhousie,” said Lafond. “I just try to persevere, but it’s been a journey. Not just a physical one but a mental and spiritual one as well.”
It all began at Mount Royal Collegiate in Saskatoon.
As a youth, growing up with compromised balance due to ear fluid issues it kept him away from competitive sports like hockey.
However, he found a place on the football field.
Unfortunately, many of his young teammates didn’t share his same level of enthusiasm. After several losing seasons, Lafond’s grade 11 team at Mount Royal forfeited the season due to lack of commitment.
The experience left a mark on him.
“It was heartbreaking,” said Lafond. “That moment I realized I really loved the sport and how much it sucked to have it taken away.”
Determined to find more success on the field, Lafond transferred to Aden Bowman Collegiate in Saskatoon. After a successful season, team representatives from Dalhousie University saw a highlight reel of the young football player on the social media site Hudl.
He soon received offers from schools and football clubs including Dalhousie.
“I didn’t even know Dalhousie was a university,” said Lafond. “I thought it was spam. I had to quickly Google it and found out it’s one of the best schools in Canada.”
In the fall of 2019, he moved from Saskatoon to Halifax to continue his football career.
In his first year, Lafond who was only 18 was the youngest player on the defensive line.
His second year was shut down due to COVID.
After sitting out a year, Lafond was excited about his third year, but tragedy struck.
“One week before the first game, during a scrimmage, I felt a pop in my knee,” said Lafond. “I tried to keep going but I had no power from my leg.”
After an MRI, it was discovered he had torn his ACL, his meniscus, and had fractured the cartilage in his knee. His doctor told him it was one of the worst knee injuries he had seen.
Out for nine months, Lafond was left to rehabilitate his knee while his team went on to win the Atlantic Football League championship.
The setback cast major doubts about his future in the sport.
“It was a battle, with so much doubt about returning,” said Lafond. “I was considering moving on from football. But I wanted to prove myself and I had a lot of support from my friends and family.”
One of his biggest supporters is his mother, Bonnie Missens, a long-time lawyer from Pasqua First Nation. He is also the grandson of Mervin and Lorna Missens, and Albert and Alphonsine Lafond.
“He never once felt sorry for himself,” said Missens. “When he struggled, I reminded him how much he’s been through, and how he’s stronger than most people.”
Missens said she was proud of the way he carried himself during his setbacks, and his continued advocacy for causes he believed in, even while injured.
After sitting out a season, Lafond returned to the field and the Dalhousie Tigers won the championship again last year.
“Being one of the only Indigenous players on the team, it gives me a chip on my shoulder,” said Lafond. “People out east only know the stereotypes, the negatives, and that we’re victims. But not many people know the successes. I want to succeed because of that.”
Returning to Dalhousie for his fifth and final year, Lafond will be graduating this spring with a degree in Political Science.
He plans on following his mother’s footsteps by pursuing a career in law.
“I think a lot of legal work can be done in relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” said Lafond. “That’s where I want to help out.”
His mother, sees no reason why he won’t achieve everything he sets out to do.
“He really inspires me. He aims to be a role model,” said Missens. “He would be good in law because he has this really soft side to him. He really wants to help people.”
Unfortunately, in November his team fell short in the championship game losing 31-28 to the UNB Reds.