The Kid from Quebec

By Geoffrey Cantin-Arku

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My story has to start with my mother.

Without her, I wouldn’t be where I am or who I am. No doubt!

My father passed away when I was still a kid.

Not only did she provide for our family, but she taught me more than I can ever put into words.

What it’s like to give it your all.

What hard work means.

What the right thing is.

I remember countless nights when she’d come home exhausted and still be a mom, caring for and helping us with whatever we needed.

She was determined to give us a better life, and she never gave up.

Now, I’m positioned to be the person she dreamed I could become and the man she wants me to be.

That’s why I’m here, and I carry her spirit and attitude with me each day.

From hockey to football

My path into football was a beautiful accident.

Coming from Canada, the first, second, and third sport the country loves is hockey.

So, naturally, I played hockey.

I only switched to football because hockey was too much of a financial burden on my family. It was tough to keep up with equipment, travel, and all the other expenses.

So, I switched to football, which was the best thing that could’ve happened to me.

Turns out, I was pretty good!

I fell in love with the sport and the lessons it teaches you.

Football helped mold me into the man I am today. The sport is tough, brutal, and organized. You have to be disciplined and work well with others, and if you make a mistake, it’s your teammate who can feel the consequences.

It also gave me motivation to be better off the field.

Once, when I was acting out in school, my coach told me that if I didn’t get my act together, I wouldn’t be playing anymore.

I burst into tears.

Sounds simple, but it’s really all I needed to hear to get my act together.

Dreams come true

After I was done playing high school ball, I attended what we call CEGEP in Canada, which is essentially a two-year program that prepares you for college.

While I was there, a scout from Syracuse saw me play and invited me to a camp.

I gave it everything I had, and when the camp was over, I was offered a full scholarship the next day.

I was floored.

I’d been working so hard for so long for this, and it wasn’t just my success.

It was my family’s, my mother’s.

Getting that offer was one of the best days of my life, and I’ll never forget that feeling.

So much joy, relief, and a hint of sadness knowing I had to leave Canada and go to another country.

But that’s what it was all about.

She was determined to give us a better life, and she never gave up. Now, I'm positioned to be the person she dreamed I could become and the man she wants me to be. That's why I'm here, and I carry her spirit and attitude with me each day.

The next step

Syracuse was great, but during my junior year, my role was changing, and I was getting fewer snaps and starts.

Being away from home and going to a smaller role was tough.

I sacrificed so much to be here, and I started wondering if this was where I belonged.

I made the tough decision to enter the transfer portal, and while it was risky and scary, I was rewarded with a perfect situation here in Memphis.

Right away, the coaching staff and teammates embraced me, and I quickly became a leader of our defense.

There are so many ways to lead, and while I often opt to let my play do the talking, I remember one of my idols, Ray Lewis, had no problem speaking up!

So, I’ll get a little more animated and let my teammates know I’m not always quiet, and I can walk the walk and talk the talk.

In such a short time, Memphis has become home, and it’s amazing to see what the game of football has done for this kid from Quebec.

Whenever anyone asks me about Memphis, I sing this city and university’s praises.

The best days are truly to come.

The team is great, the city gives us so much love, and you truly feel like you’re part of this community — part of something bigger than yourself.

And with a new football stadium on its way, the future classes will be in for a treat.

Looking ahead

To me, college is about finding yourself and getting ready for the next steps in adulthood, taking your dreams and beginning to turn them into reality.

My goal is to make the NFL, and Memphis is putting me in the best position to accomplish that.

And I know a lot of factors have to come together for that to happen.

I must play well, stay healthy, and the stars have to align a bit, too, obviously.

But I know that I’ll work my tail off to give this the best shot, and no matter the outcome, as long as I approach it with kindness and passion, I’ll succeed no matter what.

And regardless of what happens, I know I always have my family and my mom in my corner.