When Jonas Gering decided he was coming back for one more season, the Okanagan Sun couldn’t get the welcome mat out fast enough.
After weighing his options in the off-season, the 22-year-old all-Canadian decided remaining in his hometown for one last summer of junior football was the best fit.
“It’s home,” Gering said of playing with the Sun. “There’s nothing like having friends and family cheering for you at the games on Saturday nights. And the team is so familiar to me. It’s definitely nice to come back.”
After fielding calls from CIS schools from all across the country, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound defensive lineman and was most intrigued by the UBC Thunderbirds.
Gering seriously considered making the move to Vancouver to join the defending national champs, but in the end most signs pointed back to Kelowna.
“I wanted to go to UBC and coach (Blake) Nill really wanted me to come,” Gering said. “I loved the recruiting visit, spring camp was really good too. There were quite a lot of factors, and at the end of the day I decided I wanted to come back here and finish my junior career.”
Still, the CIS door remains open for Gering who has been told by Nill he is welcome to come back next year when his junior career is complete.
As for having one of the Canadian junior football’s most dominant D-lineman back in the fold, new head coach Ben Macauley said Gering’s value to the club can’t be overstated, both on and off the field.
“One of the biggest things about Jonas is his experience and his leadership,” Macauley said of Gering, who set the club record for sacks last year with 13. “He came to junior straight out of high school, he became an all-Canadian and he understands the league and the team really well.
“It’s nice to have him back, he’s a large intimidating force, very difficult to block and just makes life difficult for other team’s offences. He just adds to an already stacked defense for us.”
Gering was a key piece of last year’s BCFC championship run, the club’s first conference title since 2004.
Not surprisingly, the Rutland grad would like to see the Sun go one extra step in 2016.
And despite considerable turnover from last year’s roster and a new coaching staff, Gering expects the Sun to once again be in the mix.
“It’s going to be like every other year, we still have a lot experience among the players, and the coaches are going to prepare us and have us where we need to be,” he said. “I think the league will be more competitive this year and that will be good for us. Last year, we didn’t have the competition until it hit us (in the Canadian Bowl in Saskatoon.) I think this year will prepare us better.”
Gering, who sat out the Sun’s season opener last weekend in Chilliwack to rest a minor injury, will make his 2016 season debut Saturday in Kamloops against the Broncos.