Friday, September 22, 2006
Queen's Grads in the CFL
Throughout the summer and the fall, the Toronto Argonauts occupy a small patch of green in Mississauga, on the Erindale Campus of the University of Toronto. During the week, they rehearse for the weekend wars. On Tuesdays, they work repetitively in light gear---helmets, jerseys and shoulder pads, and shorts.
Recently, amongst the group of fifty, two recent Queen’s grads went through their paces under the watchful eyes of several coaches, including those of head coach Mike “Pinball” Clemons. After the practice, I spoke with Clemons. He was exuberant in his support of both players, but for widely different reasons.
“I have special names for players, and Jon Landon is ‘Land Mine’---but not because he is so large, and not because he blows things up! He really has a gentle spirit. For several years, our offensive line was like a revolving door. Players did not stay very long. But Jon has helped to anchor the line, with fellow Canadians Jude St. John and Chad Folk. His role increases as time passes. We really like his versatility.”
(Landon often wears two jerseys in a game---# 62 as an offensive lineman, and # 72 as a tight end.)
Clemons added another note about Landon. “Last week was an ‘Off Week’ for us, so Jon went to visit his family in Napanee. While on his way back to Toronto, I reached him on his cell phone. I needed help with a project. He responded quickly and graciously. He drove to Stouffeville, helped load a large container to send to kids in Africa, and met with hundreds of school kids.”
Landon himself credits St. John and Folk for his CFL development. He is also pleased with the Argos recent success as a team. “We had a slow start, but we have turned it around the past few games.” (Five straight wins).
Landon’s coaches at Queen’s recognized his potential immediately. Bob Howes, Queen’s Head Coach from 1995-2000, realized that “he was a natural athlete, but worked at it as well. He really worked hard at his craft.”
Bryan Crawford credits backfielders Jon Avery and Jeff Johnson for his progress. The Hamilton native bypassed his fourth year of football at Queen’s to play for the Argos last year. He returned to Queen’s last winter to complete his degree in Political Science.
“I called him ‘Crawdaddy’ the first time I met him here, “ noted Pinball. “We are really happy with his strong commitment and his development. We are most proud of him. He has improved so much, and he is one of best special teams players.”
He has battled through a few injuries this season; however, due to injuries to Ricky Williams and Jon Avery, he has started several games this year in the Argos backfield.
Berkley Brean was the Queen’s running back coach responsible for Crawford. “He had a lot to learn about football, but adjusted well to the game at this level. He has a great competitive spirit, and natural speed. His toughnessand his deceptiveness make him a complete ball player.”
Both players follow the Queen’s football season carefully. Lunch is on the line when Queen’s plays the alma mater of an Argonaut team mate. Mike O’Shea and Michael Palmer, University of Guelph graduates, will pick up the lunch tab for Landon and Crawford later this fall.
They both chuckled when I asked them about the benefits of playing professional football.
“You get paid to do something you love to do,” Crawford told me. And he added: “You get to hit someone every day!”
Landon noted that it also looks good on a resume. “It really is a great opportunity to play here. It opens doors for all of us.”
At the recent queen’s Homecoming game, I asked John McFarlane, the chair of Athletics and Recreation at Queen’s about the former Gaels. He replied succinctly: “They were both great kids”.
Along with fellow grads Iain Fleming with the Hamilton Tiger Cats, Marc Mitchell with the Calgary Stampeders, and Matt Kirk with the B. C. Lions, Landon and Crawford proudly represent the Gaels in the CFL. Enjoying every minute of it!
13 Hurst Lane
Wellington, ON K0K 3L0