Gary Jeffries coming back to where it all started

For a few weeks now, Kevin MacNeill has been wanting to bust out and share some good news. I’ve talked to him a couple of times and you could tell that he could hardly wait to be able to go public with the news that his former coach and coaching mentor, Gary Jeffries, would be joining his staff as an advisor / consultant / assistant coach.

For Jeffries, it marks a return to the place his university career began. Jeffries is an Ontario Agricultural College graduate. He played football for the Gryphons in the 1966 & 1967 seasons.

In the announcement, he talked about being back at Guelph for the 2015 Homecoming Game …

“I came to Homecoming against Mac,” he said. “There were a number of guys, probably five or six that saw me down here on the sidelines and called me over. They were guys that I had not seen probably since 1967. I look forward to that type of thing and reacquainting with some of the Guelph guys.”

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Gary Jeffries sporting a Gryphon hat Photo: Rob Massey

Gary Jeffries sporting a Gryphon hat
Photo: Rob Massey

The full story as it appeared on Gryphons.ca.

GUELPH, ON – Next month Gary Jeffries will return to the school where his connection with Canadian university football began 50 years ago.

“I’ve got some wonderful memories from the couple of years I was here,” he said after being named to the Gryphon football coaching staff as an assistant coach who’ll be helping with the defence and special teams.

“He brings so much,” said Gryphon interim head coach Kevin MacNeill. “I can’t say just one thing, he brings so much as a person and as a coach. The first thing I think of is that he’s coached in over 750 games at the university level. That kind of experience is unheard of. He’s probably the most respected coach in the country from the other coaches. He’s just a great guy. He brings people together, which is what I love. He sees the best of people and he’s great at building the family environment that I think we have a good base for and I’m trying to take to the next level.”

MacNeill was a player and assistant coach with the Laurier Golden Hawks during the time Jeffries was head coach.

“He’s a guy that I played for and got me into the business,” MacNeill said. “If it wasn’t for Gary Jeffries, I wouldn’t be a coach in the CIS. He really took me under his wing for four years there at Laurier so for me it’s awesome to have a guy with his knowledge and experience and mentorship. It’s great having that around.”

For Jeffries, he’ll be back involved in university football following a year away. He had been on the Laurier Golden Hawks coaching staff for 35 years, including 10 as head coach, until he stepped down at the end of the 2012 season. He then spent two seasons as an assistant with the McMaster Marauders. He also coached Laurier’s men’s and women’s basketball teams.

“It’s not a full-time situation,” he said. “It’ll be camps and games and that type of thing. To get back and work with the kids is something that’s kind of engrained. I’ve had 50 years of CIS coaching, either basketball or football. The combination is 50 seasons. It’s not something you ever lose, I think, so I look forward to that aspect and being back with Kevin and (receivers coach) Steve Frake and (offensive co-ordinator) Todd Galloway, who are kids that I not only coached at Laurier, but they coached with me for a while. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Jeffries was on campus in May for the team’s luncheon following their spring camp.

“That day that I came up to the spring dinner, Kevin took me on a tour and it was great,” he said. “I saw some places that I hadn’t seen for years and there’s certainly been changes that are pretty monumental. There are a lot of great changes.”

“We invited him down to talk to the team at the end of spring camp as the guest speaker,” MacNeill said. “I got to take him around the campus a little and relive some memories from his time here. I think that kind of set the stage for the next conversation, kind of got the juices flowing.”

While Jeffries, who played for the OAC Redmen, the forerunner of the Gryphons, in the 1966 and ’67 seasons, wasn’t involved in OUA football last year, he did attend a game at Alumni Stadium.

“I came to Homecoming against Mac,” he said. “There were a number of guys, probably five or six that saw me down here on the sidelines and called me over. They were guys that I had not seen probably since 1967. I look forward to that type of thing and reacquainting with some of the Guelph guys.”

That game against the McMaster Marauders gave Jeffries the chance to catch up with many former players including MacNeill and then McMaster head coach Stefan Ptaszek.

Jeffries had also been on McMaster’s coaching staff for two years after he left Laurier, but thought his OUA football days were over after he left the Marauders following the 2014 season. However, he found himself missing football last year.

“It was quite difficult once it got to mid-August and I realized it was the first time in 50 years or 40-something years I hadn’t gone back to school in August,” he said. “August was here and it went by and I was still at home.”

Now he’ll be back around an OUA football team and he’s looking forward to his interactions with the coaching staff and the players.

“It’s not for me about the colours or the name on the front of the shirt,” Jeffries said. “Guelph kids, Mac kids, Western kids, they’re all basically the same. They’re all doing this because they absolutely love it, have great passion for it. It’s something we share and there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m going to be close with these kids, too, and that’s probably what I most look forward to.”

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