Supplied, Gregor MacKellar
Gregor MacKellar is an elite bagpiper. He loves to fish for the big catch and knows better than most where to find the best grub on a busy night in downtown Halifax.
In his day job as an offensive lineman, MacKellar protects quarterback Chad Kelly from severe bodily harm and helps bust open running lanes for tailback AJ Ouellette.
But this weekend, MacKellar is also the unofficial tour guide for the Toronto Argonauts as they prepare to take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders Saturday at Touchdown Atlantic at Saint Mary’s University’s Huskies Stadium.
Scallops or oysters, anyone? How about a donair or a quick trip out to Peggy’s Cove?
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“There’s definitely some good options for seafood and stuff like that,” says MacKellar, a proud native of Timberlea, N.S. and an equally proud member of the defending Grey Cup champions. “I’m a big, big seafood guy. I actually spent two or three years going lobster fishing on the East Coast.
“So, anything like lobster, anything along those lines, you can always count me in.”
Fresh off celebrating his 25th birthday, MacKellar, a six-foot-five, 310-pound guard, counts himself lucky for his first brush with football at a “try-and-learn” clinic with the Timberlea Titans. Around 10 at the time, he signed up on the recommendation of a family friend.
“I was kind of obsessed with it after that,” he said. “I was one of those kids growing up who played a little bit of hockey, a little bit of soccer, a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
“But it didn’t really fully click for me until it was football. Then I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Did he ever. In his rookie season, MacKellar and the Titans advanced to the final and captured the 2009 atom provincial championship at Saint Mary’s.
“At that age, it’s really exciting to know you’re the best team,” he said. “I have some pretty special memories there. Everyone was pretty fired up. I think we got a sweet T-shirt and a little trophy out of it.”
Competition was nothing new to MacKellar, who learned to play the bagpipes at age six.
“It’s one of those things that some people have to work at,” he said. “And other people just pick it up pretty naturally. I picked it up pretty naturally. But I guess there’s a lot of lessons in bagpiping that also translate to football and everyday life.”
Lessons like paying attention to detail, committing to the process and practising even on the days where the motivation is lacking.
Actually, practising especially on those days where the motivation is lacking.
“He’s probably one of the most conscientious young men that I’ve ever been around,” said Kris Sweet, Toronto’s offensive line coach. “He works hard. Takes coaching like no other. He’s here early every day. He’s a very mature young man.”
That praise means a lot, especially coming from the notoriously tough Sweet.
“He’s a lot better now than he was last year at this time,” Sweet said of the sixth-overall pick in the 2022 CFL Draft. “Don’t get me wrong. He’s still got a long way to go. And he’s head-and-shoulders better than he was last year at this time.”
Offensive linemen normally take a year or two or even three to learn their trade at the professional level before starting and making an impact. Injuries forced MacKellar into the line-up last season where he learned on the job.
But pressure is nothing new given MacKellar’s other passion took him all the way to the 2013 World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland.
“It’s a high-pressure environment with a lot on the line when you’re at that level,” he said. “That’s like the top of the world right there. So that was definitely an experience, and something that I’ll never forget.”
Competing against the best clearly brings out the best in MacKellar, who played the bagpipes and football at St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, Ont.
“There’s some people that do bagpiping for the fun of it or because they just enjoy it,” he said. “I did it more from a competitive nature. It basically goes by grades — five, four, three, two, one — and then professional. And I basically made my way all the way, to Grade 1, which is just one level below professional.
“It’s pretty nerve wracking, but with practice and preparation and having those experiences, it makes it a little easier.”
The same can be said for football.
“He really, really cares and wants to be better and wants success for the team,” said Gary Waterman, who coached MacKellar at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S. “He became a dominant player for us here at left tackle and he really brought a toughness to our team.”
A graduate of the business program at St. F.X., majoring in management and leadership, MacKellar marvels over the future possibilities for the CFL in Atlantic Canada. But for now, he plans to relish the opportunity to play in the professional ranks, even for one day, so close to home.
“I have a bunch of family and friends coming,” he said. “They were looking at renting a bus and going for drinks beforehand and then coming to the game. There’s plenty for them to do.”