Gryphon players start afresh with new head coach

GUELPH – Ryan Sheahan, the newly-named head coach of the Guelph Gryphons, has watched video of last year’s games, but he won’t use that to form an opinion about any of the players who could be back with the team for the 2019 season.

“I think it’s unfair to judge them because I wasn’t here,” he said at Friday’s news conference to announce his hiring as the 17th head coach in Gryphon football history. “All I want to say is that there are some good pieces here. There’s some great players. Obviously, the scheme is going to change. Hopefully they grasp the information, digest it and put it to great use on the field.

“I don’t really want to sound judgmental. It just looked like they were a few plays short in a couple of games. They had close contests against McMaster and Ottawa where it could’ve gone the other way and if they did, that’s a 7-1 season, so if we just do a little tweaking. I hope to change the culture, fix the offence and get it pointed in the right direction.”

Sheahan joins the Gryphons after four seasons as the associate head coach and offensive coordinator with the Calgary Dinos. That came after two seasons as the offensive coordinator with the Queen’s Gaels while his father, Pat Sheahan, was the head coach there. Ryan was also a quarterback at Queen’s for four seasons and an assistant offensive coordinator and quarterback coach there for four. He also spent a year as the running backs coach with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

“I feel that everything that I’ve done up until this point has led me to the position of head coach of the Gryphon football program,” Ryan said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for anybody who is a coach, a player, an enthusiast, a fan of the game or anybody who just likes football. I think that the one difference is, and I’m not the only one out there, I was born into it.”

One of the first chances that Sheahan will get to see the players battle together and against one another will be the team’s spring camp in April.

“It’s going to be a chance to see exactly how our off-season efforts are measuring up,” he said. “It’s a chance for me to see these guys live on the field, up close and personal for the first time. What an advantage all of these student-athletes have. They get to show me through their efforts and abilities and level of execution who the starters are. When fresh eyes come in, the competition is wide open so lets find out who wants a starting job.”

The first public appearance Sheahan made as head coach of the Gryphons was Thursday’s District 10 high school football awards. Two of the major award-winners are already committed to going to Laurier while the only other major award winner who won’t be returning to high school football hasn’t decided on his football future.

“I think it’s important to engage the football players you already have in your community,” Sheahan said. “I hope that there are some athletes in this city that really want to stay in town and come and play for us and see what we’re all about.

“I can’t wait to go to those schools, meet the coaches, the teachers and meet the players and find out exactly what they have. Obviously there were some great athletes here in this room. I’m just kind of playing from behind the 8-ball. It looks like some decisions have already been made at the top level, but if a local athlete wants to stay here and go to Guelph, I think that’s great. We’d love to have them.

“I respect any student-athlete that feels they need to spread their wings and leave town and go on to experience university life somewhere else. Every person is going to have to walk their own path so I have full respect for anybody who doesn’t want to come, but hopefully once we get to know each other here in the community, they’ll see that a great brand of football exists right in their back yard.”

Sheahan knows all about leaving to play football elsewhere as he was quarterback and coach of the Esbjerg Hurricanes in Denmark.

“It was a really fun time in my life,” the 38-year-old said. “I was 25 and it was a chance to go and experience the European lifestyle. The Danish people are super classy and super friendly and super welcoming. It was a bit of an eye opener to see what semi-professional football is like over there.

“I played in the Danish National league which is called DAFF. It was an interesting time to be a quarterback, a captain and an assistant head coach and a coordinator and also an assistant with the under-19 and under-16 programs. It was a fun way to earn a pay cheque and play a little football. It was a unique experience and anybody who is thinking about continuing their career and they’re just not quite cut out for the CFL, I would recommend that they do that because the people over in Europe are excellent.”

 

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