Talks with Hawks – Episode 7: Stacey Coray

staceycoray

Laurier Football scout Dave Morrissey has spent his time in quarantine reaching out to and catching up with former Golden Hawk Football alumni. The result was a series of interviews with notable members of our Laurier Football community, which Dave was kind enough to share with us.

In 1970, Stacey Coray and Roan Kane became the first black players to play for WLU (they were joined by Howard Masters a year later). I was able to track down Mr. Coray for an interview. Coray was a defensive back who played for 3 years before moving on to the CFL and then a very successful career. He was kind enough to spend an hour with me reminiscing about his father, his playing days, and his life now. Interestingly enough, he was on his way to visit his father, and that was the subject of my 1st question.

(Dave Morrissey): I know you grew up in the London area. In my preparation for this interview, I learned some interesting information about your father. You probably know what I am talking about.

(Stacey Coray): Yes I do! My father Lewis Coray was the first black police officer in the city of London. In 2012, the city of London established the Lewis Coray Trailblazer Award which recognizes the contributions of black youth in the community.

(DM): That’s amazing. The Trailblazer Award! Like father, like son! Clearly he was a big influence on you.

(SC): Absolutely. He had a 31 year career with the London police. He’s 94 years old now. It’s possible that he was also the first black police officer in Canada.

(DM): I can certainly hear the pride in your voice now. As a teenager, did you have a sense of the specific struggles your father must have experienced being a police officer and a black man living in a predominantly white society?

(SC): Certainly, my family lived it every day. London had a very vibrant black community centered around the Beth-Emmanuel British Methodist Episcopal Church. We were always aware of the trials and tribulations of his role. The police department and police officers were a big part of my youth. My dad had many friends on the force. I remember quite often we would go to dinner at their homes and vice versa. It was a very welcoming environment.

(DM): It sounds to me that your experiences growing up were actually enhanced by the fact that your dad was a police officer.

(SC): Well, not so much because he was a police officer, but more so for the type of person he was. The way he conducted himself was exemplary. He was modest, humble, & ethical. All the police officers in town knew me. There was always a watchful eye on me, but in a positive way. My dad was like that too.

(DM): It seems like your experience as a young black male was very different than what many others have experienced. At other times in your life, have you experienced unfair treatment or had negative experiences with the police based on your skin colour?

(SC): Yes, I have experienced that. The events weren’t dramatic, but they were scary. Once I was driving down Bloor Street on my way to work (wearing a shirt and tie) and I was pulled over. They detained me for a while because they said I looked like an escaped murderer that they were looking for. A few other times, I have had police cars follow me for 10 to 15 minutes for no reason at all. I can’t prove anything but a black man driving a BMW arouses unfair suspicion. I live in a fairly affluent area of Toronto. Once, a police cruiser followed me all the way home from the grocery store in this same area. Even after I pulled my car in the garage, the cruiser was still sitting there outside my home for a while. However, I certainly never experienced anything like media has been focusing on lately or like what happened to former Toronto Argo Orlando Bowen.

(DM): Why did you choose to come to WLU? 

(SC): Well, I grew up in London but I knew I didn’t want to play for Western. I had heard about the WLU Head Coach Tuffy Knight. People had told me that he was a great coach, and that if I could play for him, I could probably also get to the CFL. (Editor’s note: Almost 30 players from the 1972 and 1973 teams did in fact make it to the next level). Tuffy was the attraction. He was straightforward. If you could make plays, you played. Everybody got an equal shot. It didn’t matter who you were. We all loved playing for him. Rich Newborough and Don Smith were the same way. Playing for those guys set me up for life. I also liked the fact that WLU was a smaller school. I never experienced any racism during my playing career at WLU or in the CFL. It was a brotherhood. We all meshed together.

(DM): Tell me a little about the 1972 Yates Cup championship team.

(SC): We beat Western in London. That was sweet. Then we played St. Mary’s in the national semis. We actually lost to them in an exhibition game, but this time around we beat them by around 40 points. In the national championship game, we lost 20 to 7 to Alberta. The game was at Varsity Stadium in Toronto. It was very cold, and the field was very slippery. They put a bunch of sand on the field to try to improve the field conditions, but it was awful. I did have a couple of interceptions in that game though.

(DM): In 1973, you were drafted in the third round by Montreal. Did you get to play there and how did you end up with Toronto?

(SC): Well, I made the active roster, but it was for only 36 hours. I was soon cut, but then I got a call from the Argos right after that and I ended up playing two years with Toronto. I was off and on the active roster during that time. I got to play with many amazing players during that era.

(DM): After your playing career ended, what did you end up doing?

(SC): I got into sales and marketing. In that capacity, I was involved with every type of media you could imagine (print, radio, tv). I was there when WFAN 590 first launched in the late 80s. Then, I worked in sports marketing at The SkyDome (Rogers Centre). From there, I got involved with the Toronto Catholic District School Board.  I am still with them. I am the Senior Manager in Partnership Development. At times, I have also lectured at Niagara College and Conestoga College.

(DM): Tell me a little bit about your involvement with the Toronto Argos Alumni Association.

(SC): Four years ago, I became the President of the Organization. I have been involved with the group for almost 30 years. I rose up through the ranks. It is awesome to get to work with the club and the community and reunite so many amazing former players. The support fund we manage is our key role. We try to help support some former players who are in rough shape financially and physically. We do a lot of work with MLSE.

(DM): It has been an absolute honour and pleasure to speak with you this morning. I hope you will be my guest at Laurier’s first home game whenever we eventually get back on the field.

(SC): That would be great. I would love to do that. Absolutely, and you can be my guest when the Argos have their first home game and at our annual golf fundraiser next year. It is on the first Monday of every June in Georgetown.

(DM): That would be awesome! To quote a former New York Jet, “Can’t Wait!”

Talks with Hawks will return soon with Episode 8: Tim Bisci

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