Justin Veltri talks Panda Game and Carleton football

Justin Veltri is a third-year communications student at Carleton University and this will be his second time playing in the popular rivalry match against the University of Ottawa, the Panda Game.

Beginning in 1955, The Panda Game is an old-standing football game between the Carleton Ravens and the U Ottawa Gee-Gees. The Ravens have won for the past four years.     

Veltri, originally from Burlington, Ont. and a member of the Carleton men’s football team, said that the Panda Game is the most important game to the team. “It was definitely the biggest game I’ve played in my life,” he said. “It was insane. The crowd, and the noise is crazy and exciting.”

What caused Veltri to join the Ravens in the first place was not only the facilities, but more importantly the polished football program and the opportunity to start fresh away from home.

“It was between here and Guelph (University) and I decided that going further away would be more fun,” Veltri said.

Veltri isn’t new to the world of football, he played house league, then went on to play in high school.

As a linebacker, Veltri plays a defensive position within the team, but said his preference is to play with special teams, the team that handles extra points such as field goals and punts. He added the reason special teams appeals to him is the combination of low responsibility and high adrenaline.

“It’s more one-on-one match-ups and just beating the guy in front of you,” Veltri explained. “I think that really whoever wants it more on special teams are going to be the guys who are going to make the play. I find that’s where I thrive the most.”

Veltri also stressed the importance of staying committed to the sport until you see improvement. “Most guys usually don’t have a role until third or fourth year . . . it’s fitting in and doing what’s expected of you; showing up for all the things you need to show up for.”

When asked about the balance between football and school, Veltri said that it’s in the off season that he finds interference between the two. He added you still have to work out during off season, so sometimes it’s difficult to wake up in the morning and want to get to class.

However, Veltri said that it comes with practice. “I think if you let it get to you, it can stop you from going to class. But as you mature, I think it doesn't really interfere.”

Football is a time commitment, Veltri said. He practices three times a week, not including walkthroughs, weight lifting, reviewing game film, and position group meetings a few times a week. Veltri also said that some team members that start on the team must do individual reviews of game film, which means during football season, the only priorities are football and school.

“I think in season there’s nothing else to do. Football is pretty much your social life. It’s cool because there’s 90 other guys on team; they’re doing the same thing, so it makes it easier,” Veltri said. “There’s a lot of guys with the same interests. They’re willing to give up a lot of other parts of their life to just be there and to work with you.”

Either way, from the moment the game starts to the time the end-of-game whistle is blown, Veltri said his precedence is to the play at hand.

“When you’re playing you don’t even really notice the crowd. You make a big play or something and you hear the crowd go crazy. That’s really the only time you hear them,” Veltri said. “Other than that, it’s a football game and you’re doing your assignment and you know you’re playing. You kind of tune it out.”

Speaking about the Panda Game directly, Veltri said when Carleton wins, he and the team will go out to celebrate.

“We expect to win. We expect to celebrate. We expect to have fun this weekend.”