One of the best things about being part of such a large group as a football team is the number of diverse individuals that come together united in a common goal.  Sukhneet Kahlon would be one of the first to admit that you don’t find a lot of guys with his background on the gridiron, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing his dreams.  As a rookie who didn’t get to dress in 2016, he was a part of a Yates Cup Championship team.  Working harder as a sophmore, he got to dress twice, and in his final two years, he became a starter on the offensive line for the Golden Hawks.  Recently, I was lucky to have the chance to talk to him about his playing days at Laurier, his faith, his experiences with racism, and his favourite football team (the Philadelphia Eagles).

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     Hired by legendary Laurier football coach David ‘Tuffy’ Knight, Tom Arnott started his coaching career at WLU in 1983 as the offensive line coach. He later became responsible for recruiting and he was the offensive coordinator for one of the greatest Golden Hawk teams of all time, the 1987 Yates Cup Championship team. He later went on to become the Head Coach at York for ten years and the Head Coach at Guelph for five years. Twice he was honoured as the OUA Coach of the Year. I have known Tom for 14 years. I first met Tom in 2006 when he took my job, but more about that later.

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Shamawd Chambers played Wide Receiver for Laurier from 2008 to 2011. He caught 123 passes for 15 touchdowns during the regular season. He was three time OUA All Star.  After that, he played 6 seasons in the CFL catching 169 passes and another 8 touchdowns.  In 2015, he missed most of the season due to injury, but he recovered in time to play a key role in Edmonton’s Grey Cup victory that year.  Another injury unexpectedly cut his career short just prior to the 2018 season.  2011 was his last year at Laurier, but it was my first year assisting with the team, so I really didn’t get much of a chance to know him. Happily, 9 years later I got the chance to learn more about him.

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Andre Talbot starred at Wide Receiver for Laurier from 1997 to 2000.  In his final two seasons, he was a 1st Team All Canadian & OUA All Star.  In 2000, he was also the team MVP.  Six years later, he was inducted in to the Laurier Hall of Fame.   In 2001, Talbot was drafted in the 5th round by the Toronto Argos.  Early in his career, he persevered through serious injuries and ultimately played ten seasons in the CFL with 288 career receptions and 18 touchdowns He was also a Grey Cup Champion in 2004.  I had met Andre at a Laurier training camp a couple of years ago.  Last summer, I asked him if he could work with my high school team for one day in July and he graciously agreed to come out to Mississauga to work with a group of very raw players.  Andre is a deep, thoughtful, inspirational individual and it was a pleasure to talk to him.  Among other things, it turns out we both have a ‘thing’ for waterfalls.

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In 2011, the top 3 rushers at WLU combined for less than 800 yards during the entire season.  In 2012, the top rusher for Laurier was QB Travis Eman with 228 yards.  Including him, the top 4 rushers combined for less than 700 yards during the entire season.  Those two years were Dillon Campbell’s first two years at Laurier.  He didn’t play much as a freshman and he had some injury problems in his 2nd year.  After two seasons, he only had a total of 30 carries for 128 yards.  In 2013, it was Coach Faulds’ first season at Laurier.  In the next three regular seasons, Campbell ran for 867, 1458 and 1115 yards to become the leading rusher in Laurier history.  Just recently, Campbell was announced as a 2020 Laurier Athletics Hall of Fame inductee in his first year of eligibility.  In fact, the day the announcement was made public, I just so happened to be scheduled to interview him. 

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In 2009, I became interested in the communication system used in the NFL by coaches and quarterbacks that incorporated a microphone in the QB’s helmet.  Such a system wasn’t used at all in Canada back then.  I actually rented a couple from an American firm for $5000 for a season and used them with my high school team.  So as to not gain a competitive advantage, I gave out the contact information to all the other coaches in the region but only one other one took advantage.  Sadly, the systems were ruled illegal right before the playoffs started.  Oh, and in our last regular season game, both my quarterbacks were injured which meant we had nobody with any experience for the playoffs.  I still remember losing that game 2 to 0 on a conceded safety early in the game.  Future U of T defensive lineman Corey Williams returned a fumble for a touchdown with a minute left in the game but the runner was ruled down by contact.  Still interested in the concept of coach to QB communication, I came across a water ski instructor in Australia who developed a system to train his pupils.  He invented a helmet with a microphone in it that allowed him to communicate with them from up to 4 km away.  To make a long story short, I contacted him and the discussion lead to me sending him 5 football helmets.  He incorporated the system into those helmets and then I went on a ‘road show’ to about a number of Canadian universities (Western, McMaster, Queens, McGill, and Laurier) to ‘demo’ the product.  Everyone I met was excited about the possibilities as the communication system was effective and inexpensive.  However, the guy was not willing to share his technology with any major football helmet manufacturer so the collaboration ended. 

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In the summer of 2019, I was down in the basement of the football house that the Laurier coaching staff proudly calls home.  Down there was a large collection of football pictures and some other WLU football memorabilia.  I thought it would be a good idea to reunite some of that stuff with their rightful owners.  One guy I managed to contact was Ken Evraire.  He was living in Ottawa, and I knew that we had a road game against the Gee Gees so I got ahold of him and invited him to join us on the sideline for that game and I was able to give him a couple of  framed photographs.  Ken was a star Wide Receiver for Laurier from 1985 to 1987.  He was the 1985 OUA Rookie of the Year, a team MVP and President’s Award winner at Laurier in 1986, a CIS 1st team All Canadian in 1986 & 1987, a 3 time OUA 1st team All Star, and a Laurier Hall of Fame inductee in 1993.  After that, he played in the CFL from 1988 to 1997.  I thoroughly enjoyed this interview with Ken.  During our 40 minute chat, he had me laughing out loud at least a dozen times.

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AnthonyLee

     In December of last year, I received the horrible news that a friend and former colleague of mine in education had attempted suicide.  Happily married with two young children and universally loved, admired, and respected by all of those who knew him, I was totally shocked by what happened.  Soon after, he succumbed to his injuries.  I have known Anthony Maggiacomo casually for a few years.  We have chatted at a couple of Golden Hawk training camps and after games on a few occasions.  Anthony was a two time OUA champion, a Vanier Cup champion, a 1st team OUA All Star, a CIS 2nd team All Star, a team MVP, a WLU Athlete of the Year, and a 2013 Laurier Hall of Fame Inductee.  At the annual football awards dinner that occurred in January, I was made aware of a scholarship in memory of Lee Maggiacomo who died by an act of suicide in 2006.  I was not aware of that fact.  A few weeks ago, I reached out to Anthony and asked him about his willingness to talk about his career and his brother.  He graciously accepted and we met for some beers in a small Kitchener pub.  Three hours later, I came away knowing a lot more about Anthony, Lee, and the importance of shining a light on a difficult subject. 

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