Football was fittingly the theme around the first annual Sportsman Dinner and Auction hosted by SWT in support of Gull Lake's Lyceum Theatre.
A capacity audience packed into the Gull Lake Community Centre on Saturday for a chance to visit with Saskatchewan Roughrider CFL All-Star receiver Weston Dressler, former Rider great Scott Schultz, and broadcast voice of the Riders Rod Pedersen.
Dressler, who led the CFL with 13 receiving touchdowns, was the highlight speaker for Rider fans. Dressler is entering his sixth CFL season and has thrilled Roughrider faithful by passing the 1,000 receiving mark four times in five seasons. He was the Riders nominee as Most Outstanding Player in both 2012 and 2011, and is coming off a career campaign where he had a personal best 94 receptions, a career high 1,206 yards receiving, and remains a major component in Saskatchewan's offense.
In making his first visit to Gull Lake, Dressler said he enjoys the opportunity to help support communities across the province..
"There's a lot of events like this to do around Saskatchewan that we can do as players. For me it's just a chance to go out and give back to the community a little bit, and show how much we appreciate the support that we get from the fans. It's truly amazing the type of support that they give to this organization, its players and the team."
He is excited for the upcoming season after a busy off-season by Roughriders management.
"A lot of changes," Dressler admitted. "I'm real excited to have coach Cortez (new offensive coordinator George Cortez) in with the offense and be able to work with him and learn all of his terminology and his offensive play book."
"Just what he's done in the past in this league, the success that he's had, really kind of gets us excited to be able to work with him, knowing the mind that he has for football and the success rate that he's had. So just to have that opportunity will be nice."
Dressler is also excited regarding the Riders receiving corps, with Rob Bagg is returning from injury and all-time CFL receiving yard leader Geroy Simon joining the Roughriders.
"Geroy coming in, obviously huge for us," Dressler admitted. "He's got the best numbers ever in the history of this league so that kind of speaks for itself. I feel like just the opportunity to work with him, not only on the field but in the film room and in the playbook, to get that kind of insight and pick his brain a little bit that way will be huge for us."
"We've got a lot of guys now on our receiving corps that are capable of making plays. So we're going to have a lot of guys eager to have those opportunities throughout games to make those plays. As a unit we've got to make the most of those opportunities that we get."
Admittedly, Dressler has to temper his enthusiasm, as training camp is still months away.
"I'm just excited. I'm looking forward to it. We've still got a few months away here to go, so I try to calm myself down at times throughout the off-season cause it's easy to get excited about it and look ahead," he smiled. "For me, just trying to stay focussed on what I need to do to prepare myself for the season."
The amiable Scott Schultz, the pride of Moose Jaw who terrorized opponents as a Rider defensive tackle during a nine-year CFL career, continues to be a passionate Roughrider supporter since retiring in 2009.
"Once a Rider, always a Rider. For me, I was lucky enough to spend my whole career with the Riders, and I wouldn't have had it any other way."
After retirement, Schultz has teamed up Pedersen on Football Fridays during 620 CKRM Regina's The Sports Cage broadcast. He feels the Riders have the potential for a special upcoming season.
"I think the big win of the off-season was signing George Cortez (new offensive coordinator). Here's a guy that had it all in Hamilton. He had the complete reign of the ship, and they passed him over to get Kent Austin. And I think he's got a bit of a chip on his shoulder...and he's a brilliant football mind."
"Aside of all the great signing of players, getting George Cortez to come and shore up the offense...it's going to help a lot to get the Riders to rally for this home Grey Cup."
"It's going to be exciting to see how they get it figured out."
Jeff Kirwan, Crop Inputs Manager at South West Terminal, noted the inaugural Sportsman Dinner and Auction was a time consuming but worthwhile effort by the entire Terminal staff. They were donating all of the proceeds from the Sportsmans Dinner to the Lyceum Theatre upgrade project, in addition to making an $8,000 corporate donation to the cause.
"We thought why not have some fun and bring some Riders in. We've never held a Sportsmans Auction in Gull Lake before, so we thought why not try and have some fun and raise some money."
"We've always had a strong football background in Gull Lake. We used to win provincials quite often, and lately we've come across hard times, but we'll get back."