Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Coach Sheahan and the Vanier Cup

Queen’s University football coach Pat Sheahan lives and breathes football. A ta recent meeting of the Belleville Sales and Ad Club, Sheahan talked football. A little more specifically, he talked Queen’s Gaels’ football.

Sheahan has been coaching Canadian university football for twenty-five years, and is heading into his ninth campaign at Queen’s.

He developed his love of the game during his high school days in Brockville. He played his university ball at Loyola, and played in the Canadian Football League long enough to enjoy the proverbial cup of coffee. During his address, he poked a little fun at himself when he spoke about centering the ball for Hall of Fame quarterbackWarren Moon. Moon always addressed Sheahan by his nickname: “Hey you. How about a snap?”

Incidentally, Moon is one of two individuals to be inducted into the National Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio and the CFL Hall of Fame in Hamilton. The other? Legendary coach Bud Grant. The only Canadian in Canton is Bronko Nagurski.

Last year was truly a highlight year for Sheahan and the Gaels. 2008 had been tough on the players and the coaches. They had finished that season with an 8 and 0 record, and were marching to the Canadian University finals. They ran into a little adversity in the form of key injuries, and a team from the University of Ottawa that would not quit.

Once the season was over, Sheahan knew he had to retool the machine. He was thrilled that Brannagan came to camp with a “new found hunger and a great desire to play”. He stocked his offensive line with “five guys over 300 pounds”. Perhaps more importantly, he was able to convince Shomari Williams to leave Houston and attend Teachers’ College at Queen’s. Williams was recently rewarded for his efforts by being the first overall choice in the CFL Draft.

Jimmy Allin toiled in the Queen’s defensive backfield for his entire university career. He began his football days as a quarterback in the Belleville Minor Football League. He then went to Quinte Secondary School and led the Saints to several championships. He also returned punts and kickoffs for the Gaels, often providing the spark when required to get the offence moving. His play was crucial throughout the season.

Sheahan credited his defence for their first playoff win last year against McMaster. The team then hosted Western for the Yates Cup. In what Sheahan called “the greatest college football game ever played”, the Gaels outlasted the Mustangs 43-39. He credited the fans for their inspiration that day. “Never before had I ever heard so much emotion from our fans. It was magnificent.”

The victory over Laval for the Mitchell Bowl was not entirely expected. Most of the experts had picked the “Rouge et Or” from Quebec, and the team even had a plane waiting on the tarmac at the Kingston Airport to fly them home. They would need all the rest they could get for the Canadian Championship.

The Gaels then faced the highly regarded Calgary Dinosaurs for the Vanier Cup. Trailing 25-7 at half time, the coach entered the dressing room to face a dejected crew. Without raising his voice, he reminded them about their mission. He told them that if they scored first in the second half, they had a shot.

His son Devon scored a critical touchdown in the second half, and the Gaels trailed 25-19 going into the fourth quarter. The real key to their victory, according to Sheahan, was that they controlled the ball at the end of the game. “We had the ball for six of the last seven minutes.”

Sheahan said that he thinks there should be more Canadian players in the Canadian Football League. There are currently quotas on the number of imports allowed on each team. Sheahan thinks it is time to lessen those quotas. “I personally don’t watch the CFL to see Americans”.

He is fiercely proud of all of the players who have gone on to play professional football. And he is equally proud of all of his players who have graduated to become successful in other chosen fields.

He fired a couple of quotes at the group to end his address, one from Colin Powell: “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”

For Sheahan, the success from last season is sweet; however, he seldom rests in his quest to build the team for this September, and another season at Richardson Stadium.

James Hurst
May 3 2010

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