AB Apparel Ambassadors: Chatting with Ante Litre-Milanovic of the Calgary Stampeders
December 02, 2019
Can you tell us about your background and how you started playing football? Sure, I was born in Vancouver, B.C. and my parents are Croatian. My dad immigrated when he was 28 years old and my mom when she was three. Our family had no idea what football was, but like a good Canadian kid, I played every sport, one of them being hockey. If I fast-forward, when my brother started at Notre Dame High School we discovered football as they have historically a great football program. Our little Croatian-Canadian family had never heard of or even watched football. My brother showed up to training camp and that was it for our family, we fell in love with the sport and I quickly followed in my brother’s footsteps. I started playing football in grade 8. It was not the easiest start and I was not good at it right away, it took a lot of time. I was kind of a bench warmer until grade 10, but it escalated quickly, I guess! When I was in grade 12 I was playing as a multi-sport athlete. I participated in football, soccer, wrestling, basketball, tennis, and track and field. The coaches and scouts talked about my versatility and I credit that to a really holistic sports background. My parents always encouraged me to join sports even when we were in elementary school. We were able to play for any club team if we had the desire. My mom kind of lived in our minivan for most of our childhood just driving all three of us around! In grade 11 I was thinking about going into trades post-high school because my dad is a tradesman. All of a sudden, however, university coaches started offering for me to come play on scholarship. I had to readjust my view on what I wanted to do after high school, so I looked into schools and ended up going to Simon Fraser University. SFU is the only NCAA school outside of the USA and we traveled all down the west coast playing teams. That was quite an experience in itself. Toward the end of my college career, I set my sites on going pro. There were a million steps in between high school and pros but it all worked out in an awesome way. I did 5 years at SFU and got my BA in health sciences. I lined up my last semester with my last season at SFU, so I had the offseason to prepare for combines, pro football, and all that good stuff. So now, to fast forward, this is your third year in the CFL. Tell us a bit about the last three years? My last year at SFU was not a huge success story. We went 0-10 and as starting running back I had a 1.2 average. (normally you are looking for 4 and above). I was coming off an all-star season in my junior year, and I felt physically able and knew I had more to give to the sport. After finishing at SFU I had to make an impact on the combine season. I signed up for every combine, emailed thousands of sports agents, and emailed schools asking to participate in their pro days. I ended up having a pro day through SFU and then did the NFL and CFL regional combines and got invited to the CFL national combine. I was able to prove myself through that circuit. Come CFL draft day, as I was waiting by the phone all of a sudden the Calgary Stampeders called and informed me I had been drafted. I was so excited because I had teammates playing for the Stamps and I could see that they are one of the more successful organizations in the CFL. I showed up to McMahon stadium when rookie camp started, and I remember walking out on my very first day, stepping onto the field and watching the quarterbacks warm up. The CFL football was a lot bigger than the ball I was used to, and these quarterbacks were absolutely wiring the ball. I just happened to be catching for Bo Levi that day, and he was of sizing me up a little bit – I swear he must have ripped a hole in my gloves with how hard he was throwing the ball. In my first year, I had a huge chip on my shoulder from my SFU days and all the losses we had. I was now on one of the most winning teams in pro football and every day of practice I was trying to prove myself. Sometimes I was my own biggest enemy because I would get myself frustrated - I felt like I could be doing more, or I was making too many mistakes. However, the team had a great culture and allowed young players to develop. It was devastating losing the first grey cup, but it was such an amazing, wild ride throughout whole the year. I learned so much about Calgary, the province of Alberta, about the team and what it takes to be part of a winning culture and what is required from every player. The second year, the whole team had a chip on their shoulder. From day one, it did not feel like there was a doubt in anybody’s mind that we were going to win the championship that year. What a cool feeling it was – and we won in Alberta, too. What has been going on now, with it coming to the end of your third season? My goal going into the season was to build on my special teams roll from year two. In my second year, I was on the roster for every game and contributed on special teams with limited offensive reps. I told myself I want to earn myself a role on offense this year. I have proven myself to be that running back that I was not able to show at SFU. I have been getting some carries and feel like I have been able to run the ball completely different from anyone else in the league. It has been so exciting. I have played with and got coached by legends of the game. This year just flew by and it seems training camp was yesterday. When you are enjoying your job and your team so much you want to grasp onto the moment and not let it slip. The more you enjoy it, the faster it goes! Why did you want to partner with and support Alberta Apparel? Well, I am in year three now and because I have earned my roll on the team I think this is a year to step up off the field, too. I have been looking to contribute to communities outside of football. I am trying to get into volunteer work or extra community building with the team. Outside of football, this is the next step for me. When Alberta Apparel came up to me, it felt like a great fit. I want to help local businesses exceed and I know the Stampeders mean a lot to the city of Calgary. It is important for us to be more than our sport. Us playing means a lot to a lot of people out here, and it is also important to be the same person off the field too. You want to be able to be that friendly face people can come up to and chat with. I have some fans that give me a couple of pointers here and there or give me praise, it feels like such a homey city! If I have a chance to be involved with Alberta Apparel, they are a company that sources their materials locally and they are giving tons back to the community too, so it just feels like something I should be a part of.
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