♦ This past Fall another former Wildman winner, Calvin Nigh, passed away unexpectedly at the age of only 48. His wife Andrea, son Griffon and daughter Gwenythe made the trip to Guelph from Fort Erie for the dinner. Former teammate Mike Shoemaker spoke about the things that made Nigh a great teammate and friend. Just to have some idea of how much impact Calvin had on the lives of those around him you ought to read a couple of articles in the Fort Erie Times and the St. Catharines Standard.
Nigh won the Ted Wildman Trophy back in 1990. The short but well-done video below contains some of the highlights from his 1986-1990 Gryphon career. It was put together from VHS tapes of games broadcast on CHCH TV that had been saved all these years by teammates Tom Newbigging and Bryan Maltby. It was played at the Dinner. Also, there is another video in which MPP Tim Hudak pays tribute to Calvin Nigh in the Ontario Legislature.
♦ It was nice to see how many parents were there. And not just from the local area. There were parents from Sault Ste Marie, London, St. Thomas, Niagara Falls and other distant points. Some grandparents even made the trip down from Huntsville. There was also a larger turnout of University staff and representatives of the Gryphon Cheer team. Nice to see Corpus Christi football coach Nathan Galoni out and looking well.
♦ Several of the Gryphon coaches present were heading off to Texas just a few hours after the Dinner ended. Brian Cluff told me he had to catch a 3 a.m. flight from Toronto to Dallas. Cluff, Kevin MacNeill, Adam Grandy, Alex Derma and Mike MacDonald are all part of the various coaching staffs for the International Bowl Series. There will be a Jamboree on Thursday, followed by the four games on Friday, Jan 30 and Saturday, Jan 31. Finally, the U19 game will be played Saturday, Feb 7.
♦ I was more than pleased to hear that the initiative announced by Coach Lang at last year’s Gala Dinner to endow more football scholarships is off to a successful start. Lang’s generous offer to match all donations from alumni and supporters up to $1 million has already helped to raise $600,000. The fundraising campaign entered its public phase Saturday night. You can learn more about it on the Triple Victory Project webpage and this story in yesterday’s Guelph Mercury.
Strong students + Competitive athletes + Good citizens = Triple Victory
♦ This Gryphons.ca’s story on the Wildman Dinner & Awards Banquet has a few more details about some of the awards and their winners than I provided.
♦ The player speeches, usually introducing &/or speaking about a graduating teammate, were once again one of the highlights. Probably no one was more nervous about his speech than 3rd year defensive tackle Donnie Egerter. He spoke about fellow d-lineman and grad student Djordje Gavrilovic. He did such a good job in spite of his visible reluctance that Master of Ceremonies Steve O’Brien suggested Egerter may want his job in the future.
♦ I was talking to running back Mason Swift briefly. He told me his leg has healed nicely and he will be cleared to start running very soon. Swift, who suffered a lower leg fracture in the 1st Q of the Laurier game, should be a full go for Spring training camp. Another RB I didn’t see but heard several people speak about was Johnny Augustine. As in, “Wow, did you see the size of Johnny?”. And that was meant in a good way. Always a beast in the weight room, clearly Augustine must have continued to bulk up. While he was no slouch carrying the ball [OUA All-Rookie team] we’ll have to wait and see if he has a future as more of a fullback-type player. That could potentially boost his CFL prospects. He was devastating against Western and played a big role in helping Rob Farquharson to a 232-yard rushing performance in the semi-final victory.
♦ One player I didn’t see at the Wildman was Long Snapper Daniel MacDonald. Turns out MacDonald was in Arizona participating in a specialized camp for long snappers. Most of the participants were NCAA grads and/or NFL free agents prepping for NFL Combines and tryouts. The camp work should help MacDonald as he prepares for the CFL’s Toronto Regional Combine.
♦ Just back from a trip down south in time to attend the Dinner was former linebacker & current assistant coach Curtis Rukavina. Rukavina has been working for the Toronto Argonauts in a player personnel role and he was down in Mobile, AL for the Senior Bowl with former teammate Chris Rossetti. He told me he had a chance to talk with 1989 Wildman Trophy winner and current NFL GM Thomas Dimitroff Jr.. Looks like he met a few other big name football guys too (see photo). While Rukavina is currently working on a short term contract he is hopeful it will be renewed. That reminds me of Jarryd Baines‘ situation. He had a series of contracts with CFL head office before landing in Saskatchewan last spring on another temporary contract. The Roughriders have renewed his contracts and he continues to work in Regina. Speaking of the CFL head office, Dave Hutton, a Gryphon team captain from the 1970s, was also at the Dinner on Saturday night. Hutton continues to work for the CFL evaluating, recruiting and training referees.
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The St. Catharines Standard thought Rob Farquharson’s winning of the Wildman Trophy was worthy of a banner headline in the print edition of the paper. Sports Editor Bernie Puchalski also mentions several of the other Niagara connections.
ST. CATHARINES – Niagara Falls native Rob Farquharson was presented with the Ted Wildman Memorial Trophy at the Guelph football awards banquet. The fifth-year running back, a product of Stamford, finished his career as the second-leading rusher in Guelph history.
The Wildman Trophy, presented since 1932 to a senior or graduating player, is awarded for sportsmanship, leadership, gentlemanly conduct and good academics.
Among the former winners in attendance was St. Catharines native Peter Partridge. During the dinner, there was a special tribute to another Wildman winner, Calvin Nigh. Nigh, the coach of the Ridgeway-Crystal Beach football team, died last fall.
Other Guelph award winners with local connections included: St. Francis alumnus Alex Charette, named offensive player of the year; and, Saint Paul grad Ryan Nieuwesteeg, co-winner of the special teams player of the year award.