Throwback Thursday: OVC alum Bernie Brennan


A big thank you to Robbie Keith for the following submission on Ontario Veterinarian College [Class of ’51] alumnus Bernie Brennan …

As a 19-year old graduate of St Patrick’s High School in Ottawa, and winner of the Doran Trophy as the outstanding student-athlete, Bernie Brennan was recruited by the Ottawa Rough Riders. In his first year he won the Gruen Trophy for the Outstanding Rookie in the “Big Four” (now the CFL’s Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton and Montreal teams).

But veterinary medicine beckoned and he headed to OVC in Guelph where he starred in the backfield for the “Aggies” for five years, including Dominion Championships in 1947, 48, and 49. Bernie was part of one of the all-time great backfields in University of Guelph history, as he and his partners, Jack “Goomer” Raithby and Tony Calverley are all members of the U of G Sports Hall of Fame. These were the immediate post-WWII days and as Bernie noted in the press “It was right after the war and we had a lot of good players.”

On graduation in 1951, he returned to the Ottawa Rough Riders, helping them to a 21-14 Grey Cup victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. As the Guelph Mercury noted Bernie said he was “paid $800 a game in those days. He earned a $1000 bonus for winning the Grey Cup. It was the most he had ever been paid for anything.” He went on to note “They always paid cash. After you showered you lined up for your pay”.

Bernie was also a hockey player of acclaim, playing on championship teams with the Kemptville Royals and Brockville Magedomas in the St. Lawrence and Ottawa District Hockey Association leagues. He was inducted into the Kemptville and District and Ottawa Sports Halls of Fame.

Following the Grey Cup victory Bernie retired from football to turn his attention to both large and small animal veterinary practice. But is was standardbred horse racing that became his passion. He was the “track vet” at the Rideau Carleton Raceway, he trained some standardbreds, he owned a share of the great Canadian pacer Cam Fella, and he served as a commissioner on the Ontario Racing Commission.

B Brennan Wiki


View Brennan’s Gryphons Hall of Fame profile page here.

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Throwback Thursday: Alumnus Harley Deeks


Harley Deeks, OAC ’50

From the Friends of Gryphon Football newsletter article on featured alumnus, Class of ’50 Ontario Agricultural College grad Harley Deeks …

We are so pleased to celebrate Harley Deeks as our Featured Alumni for the month of March. Harley graduated from the University of Guelph in 1950, and will be celebrating his 91st birthday in June. Harley started at right tackle or “middle” for every game throughout his four-year career.

His favourite memory from his time as a Gryphon took place on October 2nd 1948, after their exhibition game against McGill at Molson Stadium in Montreal. On the way home, the bus stopped at a local store where the players all purchased beer for the trip home. Once they got back into Ontario, the bus was stopped by three police cars who confiscated all of the beer and escorted the players to the Justice of Peace who fined the team with $100 for the alcohol. The boys created a collection system which consisted of $3 for the guys who were drinking, and $1 for the non-drinkers.

The coach at the time, Bill Mitchell, was driving home in a separate car and the team managed to keep this incident a secret from him for about a week. “I think we won every game after that for the coach. It was kept quiet from the rest of the students that year”.

This story of playing at Molson stadium, as well as purchasing beer is a little bit ironic for Harley as he moved on to work in the beer industry after his time at Guelph. Harley ended his business career as the Vice President for all of Western Canada for Molson Breweries Ltd.

He has attended at least 25 Grey Cup games in Canada. During his time as President for Saskatchewan and Alberta, Molson Breweries sponsored the Saskatchewan Rough Riders, the Edmonton Eskimos and the Calgary Stampeders. Harley personally worked with the Edmonton Eskimos to start the Coach of the Year in the Canadian Football League, which allowed him to shake the hands of many coaches over the years. When Harley retired in 1990, the Molson Breweries started a scholarship in his name. He used to go on convocation day and personally give out the $1000 reward. Now, he always receives a letter from the recipient.

Harley has 7 kids (2 girls and 5 boys), as well as 18 grandchildren, and 24 great grandchildren. He married Barbara Herring, a cheerleader at the University of Guelph. Barbara passed away six months ago. They would have been married 70 years this March. In August, Harley is planning on travelling back to Ontario with his kids to visit the OAC and Mac Hall, where he lived and played football. He is very excited to view Alumni Stadium, as they played on Johnston Green, as well as our new Pavilion.

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Congratulations to Matt Nesbitt!

It’s official … Gryphon Football’s operations manager / assistant coach Matt Nesbitt has accepted a full-time coaching position with the Windsor Lancers.

Nesbitt will be joining the Lancers staff as their Running Backs coach and Run Game Coordinator. As I understand it, Nesbitt will learn the Lancers offense from its architect, head coach Joe D’Amore, and transition into the Offensive Coordinator’s position over time.

I think many Gryphon fans will be sad to see Matt moving on but this is a great opportunity for him. There is no question that Nesbitt prefers coaching to the video coordinating and logictics management duties that made up most of his job at Guelph.

As a coach Matt Nesbitt has already done amazing things with his Jr. Gryphons teams, first at the JV level, then at Varsity. His ability to communicate with, teach and motivate young men, combined with his experiences as a Gryphon player and assistant coach, and a season as a CFL assistant, combine to make him one of the top young coaching prospects in Canadian football.

As a player, Matt will be remembered as a 5-year starter who was a leader and captain of the 2015 Yates Cup championship team.

Nesbitt w Yates

Matt Nesbitt hoists the Yates Cup     Photo-Lou Toppan

Many people will have forgotten that Nesbitt’s first game started as a freshman was at defensive tackle in Week 3 or 4 IIRC. He switched to O-Line in the middle of his rookie year and finished the season as a starter at Guard. Nesbitt’s move from Guard to Centre in his third year was also a mid-season transition, necessitated by a shoulder injury to Cody O’Neil.


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Congratulations to Rob Pavan!

RoB Pavan.jpg

Rob Pavan as an Ottawa Rough Rider

Congratulations to former Gryphon linebacker and assistant coach Rob Pavan!

Pavan will be in the 2018 class of inductees into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame according to a story today in – Guelph Sports Hall of Fame announces 2018 inductees.

Veteran athlete Pavan began playing football in the Guelph Minor Football program, helped lead the Bishop Macdonell Celtics to three high school crowns, and was an all-star linebacker at the University of Guelph, helping them to their last Vanier Cup title in 1984.

He was drafted by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1987 and played two seasons in the Canadian Football League, with Winnipeg and Ottawa, before retiring due to injury in 1989.

He returned to University of Guelph as a coach for six seasons and also helped coach the Centennial high school team.

Pavan was also the driving force behind the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Guelph District 10 High School Football festival that helped raise $45,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada.


Pavan won’t be the first former Gryphon inducted into the local HofF. Back in 2016 it was Thomas Dimitroff Jr who was inducted. And if I recall correctly, Doug Pflug was inducted with one of the Guelph Storm teams that he worked with.


Photo: John Bradley / Scott Grant Photography

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Gryphon news & links – Feb 19/18

It’s Reading Week and the Gryphons are in Florida at IMG Academy for their Winter Camp. The team hit the road Friday, arrived in Florida Saturday and started 5 days of practices Sunday. Friday is beach day.

There is a Rob Massey story on the Florida trip on the Gryphon Football Team App.

“There’ll be a lot of football, we’ve got some speakers and we’ve got a beach day, too, to give the kids a little bit of time off,” MacNeill said. “We’ve got to go to the beach at least one day.”

But football will be the focus of the week.

Some video from Day 1 of practice …

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Video of K/P recruit Eric Stranz‘s signing ceremony thanks to

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There were more signing ceremonies in the past few weeks.

Darren Stevenson/519Sports was there when QB Recruit Andrew Horscroft signed at his school – Cambridge-St Benedicts. You can find his photo gallery here.

Andrew Horscroft

Coach Matt Nesbitt welcomes Andrew Horscroft     Photo:519SportsOnline

BTW I haven’t forgotten that I said I would write about the QB situation in the near future. Also in the works, another recruiting update on 5 more players who committed last week. They were …

DB Brendan Murphy – [Champlain-Lennoxville/Montreal QC]

Brendan Murphy

RB Jean Paul Cimankinda – [StMatthewsCSS/Ottawa ON]

J-P Cimankinda

WR Willy-Pierre Dimbongi – [StMatthewsCSS/Ottawa ON]

W-P Dimbongi

DB/WR A.K. Ismael – [StMatthewsCSS/Ottawa ON]

AK Ismael

DB Cole Wilkinson – [SouthCI/London ON]

Cole Wilkinson

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And finally, video highlights from the Wildman Dinner …


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FoGF Poker Tournament is back

Enjoy some friendly poker every once in a while?


It has been a few years since Friends of Gryphon Football has hosted a Poker Night. You won’t want to miss the opportunity to join in Saturday, March 3.

Friends of Gryphon Football (FOGF) would like to invite you to a poker tournament being held in support of the University of Guelph Gryphons’ Football Team.

Saturday, March 3, 2018
Guelph Curling Club
$40 buy in, payable at the door

Click HERE to register, or copy and paste the following URL into your web browser:

Register early to secure your spot!

Poker Tournament.jpg

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Recruiting Update – Feb 10/18

Editors note: As the title suggests, this post was written a week before it was published. Keep that in mind when it refers to time frames.

In the past two weeks the Gryphons have received commitments from five more 2018 prospects.

By my count, the 2018 recruiting class has now reached 26. [I’m including NCAA transfer Carter Wilson in that number.] One difference from any previous class I can remember … five of the recruits are already in school (enrolled in January) and participating in practices.

The additions in the past two weeks are …

WR Jake Bennett [HandsworthSS/North Vancouver BC],

K/P Eric Stranz [SouthwoodSS/Cambridge ON],

DL/LS Joel Stenning [SouthCI/London ON],

FB Emmanuel Ituara [CentralCatholicSS/London ON]

LB Anthony Hall [JohnAbbottCollege/MontrealQC]

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The commitment of Kicker/Punter Eric Stranz is a little unique, as he may be the only recruit at a position where I have said there is a critical need.  I have already written about him here.

Eric Stranz

Eric Stranz working at a Specialists Camp at the University of Waterloo

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The four newest additions …

Anthony Hall

• 6′ 225-pound linebacker who played at Montreal’s John Abbott College
• his JAC Islanders were 7-1 in regular season play and 9-2 overall; JAC reached the D2 Championship game
• Hall was named a CEGEP Division 2 All Star
• his 85.5 tackles led his team and made him second overall in the 9-team league

My quick thoughts: I love his highlights. I see a tackling machine who I think will play as a freshmen. I expect that to be the case because he is outstanding on special teams. How much and how soon he plays at linebacker will be a function of him learning the defensive system. He will compete for the Will LB position left open by the graduation of Derek Drouillard.

Emmanuel Ituara

• 6′ 230-pound Fullback/Defensive End who plays for CFC Top50 program Central Catholic in London and the Jr. Mustangs program
• Won TVRA, WOSSA and OFSAA titles in 2015 with Catholic Central
• says Ituara is … an absolute bull on the field and will also be a featured component in their running game when he lines up at fullback. 
• Ituara commmitted to the Ottawa GeeGees in 2017 before deciding to return to school for a victory lap

My quick thoughts: When I see the Gryphons recruit a stud like this I know they are serious about using a blocking full FB/H-Back in the offense. Guelph’s current fullback is converted DL Lukas Brennan. Because Ituara looks like he is physically ready for the jump to U Sports I could see him #2 on the depth chart as a freshman.

Joel Stenning

• 6′ 250-pound two-way lineman and long snapper for top-ranked South CI in London
• Stenning won 4 City Championships with South
• 6th member of the South Lions to commit to the Gryphons
• Played for Team Ontario and the London Jr. Mustangs
• Winner of the Dr. Jim Allen Award as top lineman in TVRA Central.

My quick thoughts: Stenning could be the long snapper of the future while providing the Gyrphons with depth on the D-Line. IIRC he was the top long snapper at the Gryphons Specialists Camp last Spring. He is son of former CFL lineman Mike Stenning who won the Jeff Hale High School Coach of the Year trophy in 2016. In his 2014 HS Junior highlights you’ll see he was an athlete (H-back/LB) before he grew into his OL-DL role.

Jake Bennett

• 6′ 170-pound receiver played his high school football at Handsworth Secondary in North Vancouver
• the Handsworth Royals compete in BC’s highest classisfication – AAA. Their 2017 record was 5-1-1 and they were eliminated in the first round of BC playoffs
• Bennett was selected to the AAA Pacific Conference All Star team as a receiver

My quick thoughts: Based on my research and his Junior (2016) and Senior year highlights Guelph is getting an honour student with lots of potential as a football player. Bennett runs smooth routes, plays with speed, makes catches in coverage and embraces his role as a blocker. I do think he would benefit from a redshirt year as a freshman to add some muscle to his slender frame. His play at cornerback in 2016 was also impressive.


Jake Bennett extends ball across goal line (Blair Shier photo/

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Two Gryphon players win OUA medals

It is tough enough to be a college two-sport athlete, but to do them both at an elite level is outstanding. And very rare.

Two of those rare athletes are Gryphon linebacker and long snapper Job Reinhart and defensive back Simon Chaves. Both won medals at this weekend’s OUA Wrestling Championships at Brock University.

Reinhart won Gold in the 100-kilogram class.

Job Gold medal

Reinhart’s performance also earned him the distinction of being named Outstanding Male Wrestler of the meet.

Chaves won a Bronze medal in the 90-kilogram classification.

Chaves Bronze medals

Both wrestlers are Guelph natives and graduates of Guelph Collegiate. They both played quarterback for the Green Gaels. Reinhart did not take up wrestling until his final year of high school but that didn’t stop him from winning an OFSAA Bronze medal in the heavyweight category. Chaves won an OFSAA Gold medal in his final high school season.

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Congrats to Johnny Augustine

Johnny Augustine had a great 5 year career at Guelph. In fitting fashion he capped it off as the team’s Offensive Player of the Year, winning the Stu Lang Trophy.

Augustine began his career with a 100+ rushing performance in his first game. He earned OUA All-Rookie Team honours that season. He finished his career 3rd on the Gryphons all-time rushing list with 2,742 rushing yards. Augustine also caught 39 passes and scored 28 touchdowns.

Johnny Augustine

Johnny Augustine flanked by Coach John Casasanta (l) and Head Coach Emeritus Stuart Lang (r)

At last week’s Wildman Dinner, HC Kevin MacNeill shared the news that Augustine had been signed by a CFL team for 2018. MacNeill didn’t reveal the name of that team as they wanted to make their own announcement.

Three days later we learned the identity of that team via Justin Dunk, though the Riders still have not officially announced the signing.

From the 3DownNation blog

University of Guelph running back Johnny Augustine has been added to the Saskatchewan Roughriders negotiation list.

The Riders grabbed Augustine during the double secret neg list draft in December – it’s rare to see a Canadian taking up a neg list spot, which means Saskatchewan clearly has a strong interest.

Augustine had a strong performance at the CFL Combine in Regina last March in which he excelled in the pass protection and one-on-one receiving sessions. He was ranked No. 17 in the final version of the CFL Scouting Bureau, but after going unselected in the 2017 CFL draft, Augustine attended training camp as a non-counter with Edmonton. Each team can bring two Canadian players to training camp as long as they have not played a down in the CFL. Just like CFL draft picks, those players do not count as part of the team’s 75-man roster.

Best of luck Johnny!

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Gryphons add a key piece to recruiting class

Five weeks ago I wrote about what I perceived were some of the Gryphons most critical recruiting needs. One “area of need” I nearly overlooked was Kicker/Punter.

I almost didn’t mention what might be the most important recruiting need of all – a Punter/Kicker. I fully expect Gabriel Ferraro to be picked in the 2018 CFL draft. I think he has a good chance of making a CFL roster as a kicker. He is better than several FG kickers already in the league. 

Just think about how much the Gryphons have relied on Gabe Ferraro, and his brother Daniel before him, for their scoring via field goals. Both set the U Sports record for most FGs in a season. Where would this team have been without them? Where will this team be if Gabriel is playing in the CFL next year?

Successful recruiting has a team prepared for those types of things before they happen.

Voila! The announcement we’ve been waiting for. The Gryphons receive a commitment from Ontario’s best kicking/punting prospect – Eric Stranz of Cambridge/Southwood Secondary.

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More on Stranz from Canada’s top kicking coach … Continue reading

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