Mike O’Shea and Kyle Walters aren’t the only former Gryphons making news in the CFL recently.
Last week offensive tackle Jake Piotrowski was re-signed by the Montreal Alouettes. Piotrowski was selected by the Alouettes in last spring’s CFL draft. At the conclusion of training camp the Als “suspended” Piotrowski, a move which allowed him to return to Guelph while the club kept his CFL rights. If the Als had cut him he would have become a free agent. Re-signing him shows that the Alouettes very much believe in Piotrowski’s potential to play at the CFL level. Piotrowski earned OUA All Star honours in 2013.
This week it was the BC Lions who have re-signed Guelph offensive guard Cam Thorn. Thorn’s rookie CFL season ended with a training camp injury. But the Lions are still high on Thorn’s potential or they wouldn’t waste one of their limited training camp spaces on him. In fact, I imagine the BC Lions’ brain-trust is quite gleeful that they were able to grab Thorn with a late-round pick last spring, then watch him earn CIS All-Canadian honours in his first season on the offensive line.
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Another Gryphon grad who might be impacted, indirectly, by the moves being orchestrated in Winnipeg by new Blue Bombers GM Walters may be Chris Rossetti. After a successful internship with the Toronto Argonauts Rossetti earned himself a full-time position in the Argos’ player personnel department. Rossetti has travelled across North America scouting NFL training camps, the NCAA and the CIS for the Boatmen. What does that have to do with Bombers? Well, another of Walters’ hires is Ted Goveia, previously the Argos’ head of Cdn Player Personnel. Goveia was OC at McMaster a decade ago before becoming head coach at UBC, where I believe he was responsible for hiring Kevin MacNeill away from Laurier for a full-time coaching position with the T-Birds.
It’s unclear whether Goviea’s departure results in a promotion for Rossetti but it certainly does make the former Gryphon pivot rather indispensable leading up to the 2014 CFL draft. A phone call from another former Gryphon played a role in Rossetti landing his original position with the Argos. Apparently Atlanta Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff Jr. made a call to Argo GM Jim Barker that opened the door. Coincidently, Dimitroff’s Falcons played at the Rogers Centre just this past weekend where they beat the Buffalo Bills in overtime. Another former Gryphon QB, Justin Dunk, interviewed Dimitroff for Sportsnet – Thomas Dimitroff brings Patriot Way to Atlanta.
Even though Guelph may boast more former players in decision-making positions in the pros than all other CIS teams combined, there may be more to come. Graduating receiver Dillon Dimitroff has already worked with the Atlanta Falcons [2010 & 2011], the St Louis Rams  and the Jacksonville Jaguars , and hopes to find a career in pro football management. After graduating last year Sam LB and 2012 Defensive Player of the Year Jarryd Baines has spent this year as an intern in the CFL’s operation department. This past summer 5th year QB Luke Nangle had an internship in the Player Personnel Department of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
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While Mike O’Shea may be the first Gryphon ever to land a head coaching gig in the CFL there are several other Guelph-CFL head coaching connections. The Ottawa Rough Riders hired Fred “Baldy” Baldwin away from Guelph after he produced dominating teams at Ontario Agricultural College in the 1930s. His Aggies won five National Championships in Baldwin’s 11 years as coach. Baldy’s win percentage of .692 remains the standard in all modern era coaches.
The entire 1930’s era of Gryphon Football, back when they were referred to as the Guelph Aggies of the Ontario Agricultural College and Ontario Veterinary College was inducted into the Gryphon Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
A more modern connection actually worked in the opposite direction. Tom Dimitroff Sr was hired as the head coach of Guelph in 1979 after a CFL coaching career that included offensive coordinator duties with Ottawa followed by a short-lived head coaching job with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, then under the bombastic ownership of Harold Ballard. Dimitroff served as Guelph’s head coach from 1979-1983. He joined the Ottawa Rough Riders as Director of Player Personnel in 1984 and served as the team’s interim head coach in 1986.
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More links on Mike O’Shea’s hiring:
TSN 1280 [Winnipeg] discusses the O’Shea hiring with Mike Hogan – http://www2.tsn.ca/window/podcastcentre/#id=25714&id=24