Humber’s Dino ‘Franchise’ Gardner, 21, is labeled by his coaches as a ‘battler’ on the soccer field, but it’s his battling off the field gaining him nods in Toronto’s rap scene.
Gardner, co-captain of the men’s varsity soccer team, began playing the sport at age five. He was chosen to play for Ontario’s provincial squad as a teenager, Canada’s national team at the U-18 level, and again for the U-20 team.
Gardiner’s skill set and experience allow him to fill many roles for the Hawks.
“Last year he (Gardner) had a very successful year, he was a key component in winning nationals. This year he’s doing well on the field and helping us in a few different positions,” said Hawk’s head coach Michael Aquino.
Gardner’s versatility and determination on the soccer pitch led him to excel in another aspect of his life – battle rap.
After growing up watching rap battles, Gardner made a decision to try it out for himself.
This past year Gardner joined Toronto’s battle rap league Beastmode Battles under the name Franchise.”
“Franchise came into Beastmode ready and hungry,” said battle rap veteran and Beastmode promoter Joey Vitiritti, 22.
“He (Gardner) never had a battle in his life, but he killed his debut like he was trained for the moment,” Vitiritti said.
“He is the most polished out of all the new comers in my opinion,” he added.
Gardner balances soccer, rap and a school course load.
“Time management is key,” said Gardner. “The biggest challenge is finding the energy for practice, especially after a long commute or a long day of school.
“Battle rap doesn’t take up time in a bad way. I think of lines while I’m on the bus or on the train. I even think of lines while I’m playing soccer,” Gardner said.
Yet he’s humble. “Before every battle I get the bubble guts. It doesn’t mean it’s something bad, it just means it’s time to battle,” he said.
Gardner’s successful Beastmode campaign has sparked interest from other battle rap leagues, looking to add ‘Franchise’ to their events.