Cochrane football player Dale Cummings has high expectations for his senior year with the Montana State University-Northern Lights.
After a brief visit to his hometown of Cremona, the 21-year old centre for the Havre-based Lights reported to training camp on Saturday for a season that opens at home, Aug. 25. It's the start of his fifth season with the team.
"I'm excited about this year, for sure," says the alumni of both the Cochrane Lions and Cobras. "It's going to be a big year."
He likes what he hears from Andrew Rolin, the new head coach of the Lights, and he's also eyeing up camps in hopes of continuing at the professional level.
"Our new coach is really excited about having a winning culture in town. The last couple of years haven't been very good, but he's encouraging people to really believe in us and he's trying to change the entire program to make it better."
The coach is stricter and committed to bringing a higher level of football to Havre, says Cummings.
"The coach always says 'continuous effort means continuous improvement'."
"We haven't had many winning seasons, but I think this year is going to be different."
He counts last year's season opener against the Battlin' Bears of the Rocky Mountain College among the highlights of his time with the Lights. They lost in a seesaw battle that came down to a final 75 yd. drive by the Lights and a Hail Mary that was close to being caught.
"We went into the season thinking we'd have a great season and we played our butts off in that first game and almost won. That was one of my highlights of last season. I enjoyed that game. Everyone came together and really wanted to win."
An O-line player for most of his football career, he stands 6'2" and now carries a solid 320 lb. (he's 40 lbs. lighter than last year). Cummings made the switch to starting centre last year and enjoys knocking heads with the big guys in the centre.
Recruited by the Amercian college after a successful high school career here, he quickly adjusted to the differences between Canadian and American ball. The lines are closer on the snap and overall the game is faster, something he came to appreciate while playing exhibition games in the States with the Cobras.
"I think that helped me a lot to know the game better once I went down to the States. I knew what to expect.
"I think it's cool that you're right there on the line. You can be six inches off the ball if you want to be. I like that, being able to take that first step and you already have a guy on you. The speed of the game is pretty different compared to the game here."
"You've got to be big, and fast, too."
Cummings has been submitting film to pro teams and hopes to participate in a pro camp in Bozeman to get more exposure with NFL and CFL scouts.
"I'm trying to make the draft next year. That's one of my goals. I would love to play in the CFL, for sure."
Cummings is studying criminal justice with a minor in psychology. He resides year-round in Montana centre, works on campus between studies and football and has no regrets making the move to Stateside.
"I met my wife (Carrigan) , and have a beautiful daughter (Scarlet, 5 months old). I have no regrets going south. I love Havre; it's a great town with good people."
Cummings started ball with the Atom Lions and took a brief hiatus from peewee ball before returning to play for the Bantam Lions. He played high school ball with the Cobras while continuing with the Lions Midgets in the spring Calgary league. In 2013, he was named Rocky View Sports linesman of the year and played for Team Alberta in the Canadian championship.