“I’m just getting started’: Ivy League acceptance kicks off Winnipeg teen’s college football career

With an opportunity to play football at an Ivy League college in the United States, one Winnipeg teen says he’s just getting started on his dreams.

Zachary Lytle will head to Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H., next year, a move that will be taking him one step closer to his goal of playing professional football.

“Ever since I started playing I understood what it took. I went in with that mindset — that I could,” Lytle said.

It was only last year when Lytle was training at football camps conducted by other Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton. 

The 17-year-old remembers working so hard that he could barely walk after practice.

“I had to push through, that’s kind of what it takes to get to this position.”

With the help of his father, Dean, a former Winnipeg Blue Bomber, Lytle received the guidance and focus he needed to follow in his father’s footsteps. 

“In our own different ways we’re taking a moment to look back and celebrate a little. He hasn’t stopped since he was eight,” his father told CBC. 

The future member of the Dartmouth Big Green says his mother has also played a huge role in his career so far.

“I don’t know if I would have ever done my college application or even made it to certain camps [without her],” he said. 

Zachary Lytle with his parents Rychelle and Dean Lytle. (Zachary Lytle/Submitted)

Hard work on the field isn’t all it took for Lytle to become just the second Canadian on the Dartmouth football team in 10 years.

He says strong grades at St. Paul’s High School and an outgoing personality got him noticed by college coaches. 

In 2018, the young football player was shy, but when a Dartmouth assistant coach told him to show them who he was, Lytle listened.  

That’s when he started emailing coaches, posting videos of himself online, and showing what he has been working toward since he first started playing football. 

COVID ‘a blessing and a curse’

The extra work Lytle put into not only his game, but also his outreach, was essential during a year when his varsity football season was cancelled due to COVID-19.

“COVID was a bit of a blessing and a curse because … I had more time to kind of lift and gain weight and really just work on my football skills a little more.”

While the pandemic prevented Lytle from playing his last year of high school football and travelling to the States to see coaches, it did help him in one way. 

Lyte was able to gain 25 pounds of muscle during the pandemic, never missing a workout, and keeping a vigilant diet. 

He is excited to make a good first impression with the coaches and his Ivy League professors. 

Lytle has a natural passion for biology and is excited about the research labs at Dartmouth College. 

With his passion for science he’s also working toward pursuing medicine and wants to specialize as a surgeon.

“I’ve been told by former Dartmouth players that if I want to have dreams, like outside of football, like in a classroom, they’re going to support that,” he said. 

Before continuing his hard work, Lytle is taking a second to be grateful for the support from the football community including his coaches at St. Paul’s and his parents. 

“This isn’t going to be where my journey ends, I’m just getting started,” he said.

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