The 41-year-old rookie found himself drifting in and out, somewhere between sleep and waking, keyed up but flagging, when the moment they all anticipate, are all forced to confront, arrived.
“Actual fires,’’ reports Randy Chevrier, “are down the list in terms of percentage of calls we respond to.
“Our No. 1 call-volume is medical calls. Dealing with anything from heart attacks to motor-vehicle accidents to drug overdoses.
“Football, as seriously as we all take it, is play.
“Yeah, thousands of people watched what I did and were allowed critique me the next day in my old job.
“But this … this is a different world entirely.”
The retired long-serving long-snapper of the Calgary Stampeders had graduated to full-fledged city firefighter status on a Thursday.
A shade over 48 hours later, everything was quiet in the early-morning darkness at Fire Station 10, the hall, fittingly, closest to McMahon Stadium, Chevrier’s long-time place of employment.
“You’re there, five o’clock, just about to close your eyes after trying to stay awake all night because you’re really nervous, waiting for something to happen, and all of a sudden you’re summoned to a call where you’ve got to give someone a life-saving intervention.
“It was … surreal.
“I thought I was going to be a lot more nervous. It was neat to see I was actually pretty calm.
“It becomes a lot more real than snapping a football in a game, I’ll say that.”
Snapping a football is what the Chevrier did for 11 seasons modelling Stampeder red and white. Following a brief pitstop in Saskatchewan after his release here, he retired following the 2016 season.
Well, the CFL playoffs are here once again. The cold is upon us. Everything is magnified.
The most exhilarating time of any season, a time Chevrier anticipated with relish for most of his adult life.
“Last year,’’ he confesses, “was probably a little tougher for me to deal with, a little more more bittersweet. Then, I still wanted to play. I still felt an emptiness, you know? The season obviously didn’t end the way the Stamps wanted it to to but I would’ve loved to have been along for the ride with that group; a ‘Wow! What a great team to be on!’ kinda thing.
“I look at a guy like Alex Singleton. I wish I’d had a chance to have him as a teammate. Don’t know him at all but what a great player. Those are the kinds of guys you want to go into battle beside.
“This year, a little different. I’m in a career I love. I go to work every day absolutely happy. So I don’t feel the same pull.
“Of course there’s part of me – always will be a part of me, I suppose – that says: ‘You know, if the Stamps’ long-snapper got hurt for playoffs, they know where to find me …’ or ‘I’d love to run out of the tunnel again, one more time’.
“But the feeling that I’m missing out, really missing out? No, not anymore.”
The U-turn into firefighting has been a rewarding, exhaustive one. The requirements for the job are, understandably, stringent, and unlike anything in Chevrier’s experience.
“Training was a lot harder than I thought it’d be. I thought if I put in the same kind of effort I had during my football career – work hard, first guy in, last guy out – I’d do really well.
“But this, during training … I couldn’t take a day off. If I spent even an hour or two with my family, it felt like an hour or two too much away from the books. Just such a huge amount of knowledge I had to absorb in a short period of time. Such a vigorous process.
“On weekends, I was putting in 22 hours, reading and studying. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Bar none.
“After undergoing the screening, recruitment and training process for the Calgary Fire Department, I’d say our city’s in pretty darn good hands when it comes to emergency situations.
“What we go through, the standards you’re held up to, put us in a great position to help the citizens of Calgary.”
Happily, the sense of belonging, of camaraderie, that made football such a joy, is ever-present down at the firehall.
“It’s like I’m on a team again. Four to five guys, really tight-knit. We cook together, we clean together, we work on the truck together, we’re out on calls together, we go in and out together.
“I love that.
“When they recruited us, they told us: ‘This is the greatest job in the world.’ Even my position, as a rookie, where I get gooned, I see that this is the greatest job in the world.”
With training occupying virtually all of his waking hours, Chevrier admittedly didn’t follow the Stamps as diligently as he might’ve liked.
Now, however, he’s able turn a bit more attention to the Grey Cup drive.
“In the last few weeks, their momentum has kind of slowed down. What it’s gonna take is some big-time players to play a big-time game.
“I worry because I want them to succeed. Do I feel they have the guys to make it happen? Absolutely. Until otherwise proven, we still have the best quarterback in the CFL.
“We have, I believe, the best special-teams unit in the CFL. And I just saw the number of Western all-stars on defence. That’s no fluke. That’s a defence to be feared.
“I know they have the make-up to put it all together. But they’ve got to figure it out pretty quick.”
Come Sunday, the crew at Fire Station 10, one in particular, will be fixated on TSN’s broadcast of the Western Final from McMahon, just a Bo Levi Mitchell air-out away.
“Hey, I’m a Calgarian,’’ says Randy Chevrier. “This is my home. Like I said, I’m in a new job, one that I truly love. A lucky guy. I’m thankful for what I did, all those years, but I don’t miss it anymore.
“I may have moved on to a different phase of my life. But I’m also a Stampeder fan for life.”