I probably don’t need to say “I had a great time” at last week’s Gryphon Football Gala Dinner because most people who read this blog will already know I enjoy these events. I’ve attended all five of these dinners and I enjoyed the 2015 event as much as any of them.
The evening was focused on honouring the 1984 Vanier Cup Championship team and Gryphons.ca covered some of the highlights in this story on the event, including
… the announcement of the Rick Kohler 1984 Vanier Cup Scholarship. In January 2015 at the age of 52 Rick Kohler, a member of the Vanier Cup team, lost his battle with cancer. Jumpstarted by the Kohler family and supported by Rick’s 1984 Vanier Cup teammates and friends, the initiative has raised over $50,000. The fund will be matched by the Triple Victory Project and will support one full scholarship for a student-athlete on the Gryphon football team.
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This year’s Honour Jersey recipient was star receiver and member of the 1984 Vanier Cup team, Parri Ceci. The Honour Jersey “acknowledges an individual who excelled at the highest level while at the University of Guelph”. Ceci was presented with a framed version of his #70 jersey by previous honourees Sam Benincasa & Mark Brown. Ceci’s framed jersey will now be on display in the High Performance Centre in Alumni Stadium alongside those of Benincasa, Brown and Mike O’Shea.
Ceci was introduced by his former teammate and fellow receiver Al Anonech, who outlined some of Ceci’s accomplishments: offensive player of the game in 6 of 11 games in ’84, Vanier Cup MVP, team MVP, top receiver in the OUA with 11 TDs and 758 yards, and CIAU All Canadian. Anonech also recounted a conversation he had with Ceci in the weeks prior to the Gala. “Ceci said that if the 84 team could be a role model to future Gryphon teams that would be the greatest gift we could give to Gryphon Football.” They also talked about “three elements of success that resulted in our winning it all” … Leadership, Belief & Team were the most important building blocks for success.
♦ When John Musselman, head coach of the 1984 team, spoke he continued to talk about building blocks. The success of the 1984 team was “built on the people who had gone before”. He talked about the role of previous coaches in building the Aggies/Redmen/Gryphons program over the decades. He specifically mentioned Jay Fry, Tom Mooney, Bill Mitchell, Dick Brown and Tom Dimitroff.
♦ Former Athletic Director Dave Copp also spoke. Among other things, he talked about the significance of the Vanier Cup win to the University, and the role that victory played in the passage of a very important funding initiative by the student body. When he was “heckled” by former player Grant Goodrich his response – “I work alone” – drew laughter. A few minutes later when he paused for a moment to remember a name or fact, Goodrich’s voice rang out again – “I’d help you out but you work alone”. That brought the biggest laugh of the night.
♦ The ’84 team’s captains spoke. Jeff Volpe for the Defence and Jed Tommy for the Offence. They drew parallels between the 1984 team and the current state of the program on the cusp of winning a championship. Volpe told the audience how Western HC Larry Haylor had provided bulletin board material before the Yates Cup game. Haylor had called Rob Pavan and Dave “Mess” Moore “Jr B players” in the London Free Press and implied they were thugs. That was taken as a personal insult by the other 10 defenders whose names he never mentioned and it motivated the defence in their second win over Western that year.
♦ It would seem that no gathering of 1984 players is complete without a re-telling of the game changing touchdown scored by offensive lineman Scott Campbell in the win at Laurier. The only disagreement seems to be over how many dozen times DL Rob Pavan, who blocked the kick, and OL Campbell, who fell on the ball in the endzone, rehearsed the play.
♦ 42 members of the 1984 team showed up for the dinner including coaches and trainers. Coaches present were John Musselman, Rudy Florio, Reg Valentinuzzi, Peter Robinson and Jeff Hale. Dr. John McLaughlin came in from Nova Scotia and the team’s head trainer Giulio Carlin was there. The team’s film guru and long-time UofG employee Don Bagg attended. David Lindley, son of the team’s Equipment Manager Chuck Lindley, was the winner of an iPad in the Heads & Tails game. Unfortunately his father was too ill to attend.
♦ Among the players in attendance … Volpe and his wife Deb (UG cheerleader in ’84) flew in from California and QB Randy Walters made the trip up from western Pennsylvania. Ceci & Tommy came in from Ottawa and Mark Lindsay from North Bay. Pat Tracey took time away from his CFL duties to make the trip back from Winnipeg.
♦ Other special guests … Guelph Mayor and football fan Cam Guthrie and his wife Rachel were in attendance again. Lisa Kohler, Rick’s widow, was there to represent the Kohler family. There were two Olympians – bobsledder Tim “Beard Mode” Randall and downhill skier Kate Pace Lindsay, wife of ’84 receiver Mark Lindsay. Once again Justin Dunk was the MC and his Sportsnet colleague Donnovan Bennett was back for a second time.
♦ It was very evident from the speakers and the players I spoke with afterwards that members of the 1984 team follow closely what is happening with the Gryphons today. There must have been close to a dozen times that I heard Mussellman, Volpe, Tommy, Anonech and others talk about how the current Gryphons are “on the cusp” of a championship. Several saw close parallels between the Gryphons’ Yates Cup disappointment last fall and the disappointment experienced by the 1983 team. “Big things are ahead.”
♦ I spent part of the evening sitting beside Guy Quinn. It was his first experience at a Gryphon football event, though he had long heard about Guelph and it’s close-knit football alumni. Quinn was a high school and college teammate of Rudy Florio and he taught 30 years at Montreal’s Vanier College with former Gryphon Ian MacArthur. Even though Quinn played in the NCAA at Youngstown State he said there wasn’t the same level of connectedness and cameraderie that he had heard about and now experienced at Guelph. I thought that is a nice comment coming from an “outsider”.
♦ Later in the evening, Dr. David “Cornhusker” Hume (1961 Wildman Trophy winner) came and sat beside me. He was a late arriver, getting there just in time to get dessert. With the fine weather we had that Saturday and rain in the forecast for Monday, Hume had been willing to forego dinner in order to get another field of corn planted.