Talks with Hawks: Episode 34 – Randy Rybansky

     In February of 1993, I was hired as a teacher at St. Francis Xavier Secondary School in Mississauga.     I know one of the reasons why I was hired was because of my willingness to coach sports. Hiring coaches seemed to be a priority for administrators back then. I distinctly remember that when I started teaching at that school, we had at least 6 or 7 coaches for BOTH the senior and junior teams. At almost all high schools, those days are long gone.  At my school, I have had to rely on past players as volunteers just to field a program. Anyway, back in 93, one of those coaches was Randy Rybansky. Randy was only at STFX for a few years while I was there and I didn’t know him very well, but I tracked him down for this interview. Randy played for Laurier in the early 1980s. In 1983,he was selected as the Team MVP and in 1984 he was a 2nd Team OUA All Star. He was selected as the OUAA and CIAU player of the week on September 16, 1983. After a brief career in the CFL, Randy became a science teacher and taught in Mississauga before moving back home to Chatham to continue his teaching career there. He was enshrined in the Chatham Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.

Dave Morrissey: What years did you play at Laurier and what position did you play?

Randy Rybansky: I was at WLU from 1980 to 1984 and I played Fullback.

DM: Why did you choose to come to Laurier?

RR: Growing up, I was a huge Oklahoma Sooners fan because they always had great running backs like Joe Washington and Billy Sims. I loved the wishbone offense that they utilized and I knew Laurier ran a similar one.  As well, I knew that Laurier had a great tradition of RBs such as Jim Reid. I also loved the size of the school and the KW area.

DM: Who is your most memorable teammate and why?

RR: I remember a teammate who came into training camp as cocky as a guy can be, especially for a rookie. Well, he paid the price on rookie night. But he was able to ‘walk the walk’ as well as ‘talk the talk’, and Dave Lovegrove certainly became an excellent DB for our team.  (Editor’s Note: I have met Dave many times over the past few years on the recruiting trail. He has coached summer ball teams in the York region and his sons were excellent players as well. Lovegrove still holds the Laurier record for kick return average.  In 1982, he averaged a stunning 33 yards per return).

DM: What do you feel was your best personal accomplishment as a player?

RR: In 1983, I rushed for 10 touchdowns, averaged 5 yards per carry, and was selected as the Team MVP.

DM: What was your most memorable game you played and why?

RR: One game in 1983, I ran for 156 yards on 23 carries and 3 touchdowns in a game vs Mac. I was chosen as the OUAA and CIAU Player of the Week. That game was very special because three guys on the other team were former high school teammates of mine. We won 4 county and SWOSSA championships together. At another game, my parents and high school coach were in the crowd. It was the 3rd quarter and the announcer, who somehow knew my parents were in the crowd, publicly thanked them for my presence on this earth! It was a proud and funny moment for my parents and I.

DM: Tell me about your memories playing for Tuffy Knight.

RR: I think most of us had a love/hate relationship playing for Tuffy. We loved the competitive atmosphere he brought to the game, but we hated how tough his practices used to be.  In training camp, we even had three practices per day.

DM: Tell me about your CFL career.

RR: I had signed with Toronto as a free agent in 1984 and was subsequently let go as the final cut during training camp. I flew out to Ottawa to possibly secure a spot on their roster as Jim Reid was recently injured, but I decided to leave their practice squad and return to Laurier to play a final season. It turned out that the Ottawa FB broke his hand the week after I left!  After my final season at Laurier, I signed another free agent contract with Laurier only to be the last cut again. However, soon after that I was called back to the roster to replace an injured player. I played in 5 games and ending up breaking a bone in my foot in BC Place only to be released 3 games later. I was quickly claimed by the Hamilton Ti-Cats and proceeded to play in the Eastern final and in the Grey Cup game in Montreal in 1985. BC beat us 37 to 24. The next season, I was penciled as a FB but unfortunately I suffered hand injury in the first exhibition game and that ended my brief career.  I knew my time was up and so I went off to Teacher’s College.

DM: Trivia time!  What do you have in common with NHL Hall of Famer Dave Gagner and Canadian Olympic Figure Skating Medalist Shae-Lynn Bourne all have in common?

RR: We’re all from Chatham? Did we go to the same high school?

DM: You are all members of the Chatham Sports Hall of Fame.  As a matter of fact, I found the video tribute to you from that event on the internet.

DM: What did you enjoy more—playing or coaching?

RR: Playing the game was my biggest thrill. Meeting my teammates and getting to play with them was something I was always remember.  It was those situations that helped me gain the knowledge to later become a coach.

DM: Why did you leave FX?

RR: In 2000, my wife Stacy and I decided to move back to my hometown of Chatham.  Our kids were only 1 and 4 at the time.  We felt we could provide a better life for them there.  We never regretted our decision.

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