I have gone over the previous 30 episodes that I have completed so far and it seems like I have interviewed a disproportionate number of defensive backs. That trend continues with this latest feature. Courtney Stephen played for the Hawks in 2008 and 2009. During those two seasons, he had 7 interceptions and 5 fumble recoveries. In his rookie year, he was a 2nd team OUA All Star and the following year he was a 1st team OUA All Star and a 2nd team All Canadian.  He was destined for greater things, transferring to Northern Illinois to play NCAA football. After sitting a year, Stephen contributed significantly during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. During his final season, Northern Illinois was 12-0 becoming the first MAC school to play in the Orange Bowl. Although they lost 31-17 to Florida State, his team finished 15th in the national rankings. In 2012, he was the 8th overall selection in the CFL draft and played 6 years with Hamilton before moving on to Calgary for the 2019 season. He has now returned to Hamilton to continue his CFL career and it will be awesome to see a great Laurier football alum play locally in the GTA. Current Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Ron VanMoerkerke had this to say about him: Courtney separated himself from his peers in two ways. The first was his physical approach to the game. He would not be intimidated by anyone and he set the tone for the defense from his first day on campus. The second way was his relentless drive. Everything he did on the field and for his teammates was on another level. Although he was only with us for two years, his performance and passion for the game of football make him a Laurier legend.

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     Austin Reusch played defensive back for Laurier from 2012 to 2015 (Earliest Editor’s Note ever: For some reason, by far, I have interviewed more defensive backs than any other position).  After graduating from Corpus Christi in Burlington, Austin was admitted to the Business program at Laurier and joined the team as an invited walk on. Austin may in fact be one of the nicest, happiest, kindest, most pleasant people anyone could ever meet. For the past couple of seasons, he helped coach DBs at WLU and he has also served as the defensive coordinator for the Cambridge Lions. He is also an amazing golfer and I have selfishly hitched my wagon to his in Gary Jefferies’ annual tournament so as to have a ringer in my foursome. It was a pleasure to have Austin as my subject for Episode 30.

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Levondre Gordon was a running back who played at my high school at STFXSS in MIssissauga. Although I have coached there many years, I took a few years off when I started doing recruiting for Laurier so I never actually coached him, but I did watch him play and have a ton of success including helping his team win a championship in his final year. It was certainly a priority of mine to encourage him to come to WLU. Starting at Laurier in 2015, he spent his rookie year mainly watching from the bench as Dillon Campbell was starting the final year of his amazing career. In his sophomore year, Gordon was part of a RB core (lead by Eric Guiltinan) that lead the nation in terms of most team rushing yards (other key RBs were Osayi Iginuan, Darian Waite, Tre Nicholson, & Eli Fera).  Gordon himself lead the nation in rushing average with 8.7 yards per carry.  In his third and fourth years, he rushed for over 800 yards both times (earning 2nd team OUA All Star status in 2016), and in his final year(2017) he lead the nation in rushing with over a 1000 yards. He was a 1st team OUA, 1st team All Canadian, Team MVP, and an academic all Canadian.  Gordon finished 2nd all time in regular season career rushing yards (3348) at WLU and he added another 399 in the playoffs. In December of 2019, I made sure he was the first football player in STFXSS school history to have his jersey number retired.  One day, I am sure he will be inducted into the WLU Hall of Fame.

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     ‘Talks with Hawks’ returns in 2021 with a new set of interviews.  Episode 28 features members of the current coaching staff. We live in an era where civilized discourse seems to have disappeared. One of the many lessons that football can teach young men is respect. ‘Ballers’ are competitors. We all want to win. We want to dominate the man across from us. We want to beat him up physically.  But in my opinion, if we are doing it right, then after we knock that man on his ass, we help him up again. Then, we do it again. And after the game, knowing our opponent has had the same goal, we shake hands. With that in mind, today’s column is about respect for the opposition.

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     Jamie Lalonde was a much heralded recruit that had an extremely successful high school career at Sir Allan MacNab in Hamilton.  After spending his freshman year at another OUA school, Lalonde played and started at center for Laurier from 2014 to 2016.  He was part of an underrated offensive line that lead the way for Dillon Campbell to lead the nation in rushing in 2014 and 2015.  As well, he anchored the group that lead the nation in team rushing yards in 2016.  During that season, he was selected a 2nd team OUA All Star. Most importantly, he won a Yates Cup. Since 2017, Lalonde has been the Offensive Coordinator at Clarkson Football North.

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