With a summer of freedom suddenly at his disposal — probably for the first time in at least a decade — Marc-Olivier Brouillette spent more time at his cottage, the one by the lake of course, and relaxed.
If he didn’t feel like going to the gym, he didn’t, although he hopes to compete in a half-Ironman competition next summer. He finds himself eating less and has shed about six or seven pounds from his 6-foot-1, 230-pound frame. And for once, when he gets out of bed each morning, Brouillette doesn’t experience any nagging aches and pains.
“I haven’t let the whole (conditioning) thing go to s— just yet,” he quipped. “I definitely don’t miss that part of it … the lingering aches and pains.”
Brouillette, a Montreal native, spent seven seasons playing for his hometown Alouettes. A college quarterback at Université de Montréal, he was forced to change positions after being selected in the third-round (23rd overall) by the Als in 2010, making a successful transition to safety.
He played 103 games and made 195 defensive tackles, 31 more on special teams. He produced eight sacks, forced six fumbles and intercepted five passes. Brouillette was named an East Division all-star in 2016 and was a member of the team’s last Grey Cup-champion squad in 2010.
A free agent last winter, Brouillette signed with Saskatchewan — only to retire in late May, on the eve of training camp, after cashing the Roughriders’ signing bonus cheque.
“It didn’t feel right. I knew in my head I would have gone out there and wouldn’t have been 100 per cent committed to it,” the 31-year-old told Postmedia News. “My career weighed into the decision. To go out west and squeeze out another two or three years and come back, I would have been too far removed from practising. I didn’t want to be in my mid-30s, trying to find a position with rusty legal skills.”
There was never going to be any post-retirement horror stories for Brouillette, the transition away from the game seamless. Since late June, he has been one of three lawyers at Morrone Avocats, a small firm in east-central Montreal, specializing in construction and real estate law. Brouillette, who graduated in 2009 and was called to the Bar in 2014 during the height of his career, works with developers on large residential and commercial projects. His work touches on business law and litigation, but doesn’t require frequent court appearances. He had little interest in criminal law throughout school, instead engrossed by his general civil law classes.
Brouillette first had to article at Robinson Sheppard Shapiro, a general practice attorney firm in Montreal where he touched different areas, mostly insurance and litigation, mixed in with some commercial and corporate law.
Although his family has no legal background — indeed, Brouillette’s father passed away when he was only 10 — he was intrigued by the profession when he attended CEGEP and realized he possessed the grades to make it a viable option after football.
“I always enjoyed working within the rules and having a structure,” he explained. “Having a strategy and bending those rules to your advantage. It’s similar to football game-planning and preparing.”
While it undoubtedly takes talent to make it to the Canadian Football League, Brouillette required discipline and structure to combine sports with his demanding academic requirements. He missed out on social activities with family and friends, he now realizes, but said it was worth the sacrifice. And Brouillette was careful to choose who he associated with, not seeking anyone who would enable him to cut a class or shirk his responsibilities.
“Set goals and stick to them,” he said. “Have a plan and a good support system around you. If you surround yourself with enablers, then you can get off track and fall off the rails quickly.”
Brouillette, an Als player representative his final four seasons, recently became registered and certified with the CFL’s Players’ Association and is exploring the possibility of becoming an agent. He said he might also get his NFL certificate.
Joe Morrone, the sole partner at Brouillette’s firm, said the newest addition’s football background assisted him through the interview process. But in no way, Morrone insisted, did Brouillette’s association with the Als influence his decision. Morrone said his initial fear of Brouillette being out of practice after being called to the Bar three years ago were quickly assuaged. And he interviewed well.
“I was attracted by the fact, first of all, that he’s very well spoken. He’s fully bilingual, which is a big plus for law firms nowadays,” Morrone said. “Coming from professional sports, there’s discipline there. Somebody who makes it to that high level, you know this guy’s disciplined. He’s going to be on time, he understands the chain of command, he’s also going to be a team player. That’s very important. Someone who just goes on their own and does their little thing, that doesn’t work. In this office we need to talk to each other and be a big family. He understands what his role is.
“He’s working out very good. I don’t need to tell him things. After a month he already understood the way I was working. It’s fun working with him. He’s always in a good mood. He brings things to the table — ideas or ways of handling files … clients he knew from his football days. I’m very happy with the decision we took. But if he wasn’t good in the interview, it wouldn’t have mattered if he played for the Alouettes, the Canadiens or God knows who. It wouldn’t have influenced me. It’s not why he’s here. I can put him in a room with a client and he can have an intelligent conversation.”
Brouillette doesn’t deny there are aspects of the game he misses, mostly the camaraderie of being around his teammates, almost on a daily basis, for six months each year. He admitted he wasn’t sure how he would react once the regular season started, but found he was content sitting at home, watching the games at his leisure. That is until he ventured to Molson Stadium Aug. 11 to watch the Als play the Toronto Argonauts.
Brouillette had the luxury of going on the field for pregame warmups. “I didn’t know what to expect. That was a lot tougher than sitting and watching,” he said.
“You hear the music going. You know that schedule by heart having been there for seven years, minute per minute. Old habits take over and you start reliving those game-day emotions.”
Brouillette, the father of a 3-year-old girl, has remarried; he and his wife are expecting the birth of a baby boy in November. And, while he avoided serious muscular injuries throughout his career, Brouillette was the victim of three concussions. He told the Montreal Gazette, near the end of his Als tenure, a fourth would force him into retirement. Instead, he walked away from the game on his own terms.
Nonetheless, Brouillette said he can’t help but contemplate, and occasionally worry, about the long-term effects of those concussions and repeated blows to the head. He said he has decided to donate his brain upon death for concussion research.
“There’s not enough data out there,” he said. “Am I worried? It’s natural to worry a little, given everything that has come out recently. My quality of life right now … there are no effects. And I hope it stays that way.”
Brouillette might not have been a star, but proved to be a serviceable player who fit nicely into defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe’s scheme due to his speed, versatility and aggressive style. Brouillette said he’s content with his on-field accomplishments.
“I hope the guys I played with, the coaches and organization remember me as a good teammate and player,” he said. “Someone who did things the right way.”
‘It’s been a hell of a ride’: Former Alouettes safety Brouillette retires