Football Gaels take national awards

Carter and Sheahan honoured in Hamilton

Queen’s football head coach Pat Sheahan (left) accepts the Frank Tindall Trophy Friday.
Image supplied by: Supplied Photo By Jeff Chan
Queen’s football head coach Pat Sheahan (left) accepts the Frank Tindall Trophy Friday.

The football team’s season may have ended in disappointment, but the awards and accolades for their accomplishments piled up in Hamilton last week at the Vanier Cup festivities.

On Thursday night, middle linebacker Thaine Carter was selected as the top defensive player in the country (excluding linemen) and was awarded the President’s Trophy. Carter led the team with 42.5 tackles this season and added three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Carter said his award was huge for him, especially because his family flew in from Nanaimo, B.C. for the ceremony.

“That meant the world to me,” he said. “You couldn’t ask for any better people in your corner, so I’m really happy to have them there. I’m just happy to represent my institution well, to represent my family well and put a smile on my mom and dad’s faces.”

Carter was far from the only Gael to gain recognition, though. Queen’s had eight players named All-Canadians and six named to the first team. It’s the best showing the Gaels have put in since the inception of the All-Canadian teams in 1975. It shattered the previous Queen’s record of four All-Canadians and two first-team All-Canadians. It was second only to the Laval Rouge et Or, who had eight first-team All-Canadians and one second-team All-Canadian. Laval went on to win the Vanier Cup Saturday with a decisive 44-21 victory over the Western Mustangs.

Queen’s other first-team All-Canadians were running back Mike Giffin, the OUA MVP; wide receiver Scott Valberg, who was the only receiver in Canadian university football to crack the 1,000-yard barrier this year; defensive end Osie Ukwuoma, who tied for the CIS lead with 9.5 sacks and was the OUA nominee for the J.P. Metras Trophy as the outstanding lineman in CIS; defensive tackle Dee Sterling, who finished tied for third with 7.5 sacks; and returner Jimmy Allin, who led CIS in punt return yards. Quarterback Danny Brannagan and offensive guard Vince De Civita were selected as second-team All-Canadians, and Allin was also named to the second team as a defensive back.

The tributes for Queen’s continued Friday morning, when head coach Pat Sheahan was awarded the Frank Tindall Trophy as the CIS coach of the year.

Carter said Sheahan was a great choice for the award.

“Coach of the year, that’s nothing to be surprised about,” he said. “Coach Sheahan’s a great guy. He’s a family man, a strong leader, a strong mentor to all the boys, really, really looks after us well. He deserves everything that comes his way. That guy works hard. He works very hard. It’s good for our school, it’s good for our team and it’s good for all of us to see him being recognized this way.”

In his acceptance speech, Sheahan said the trophy was bittersweet because of the Gaels’ playoff loss.

“I haven’t felt much like a coach of the year the past couple of weeks, but a tough day in November will do that to you,” he said.

Sheahan told the Journal afterwards that winning the trophy was special, though, especially as it bears the name of legendary former Queen’s head coach Frank Tindall.

“It’s certainly a pleasure to be associated with Frank Tindall,” he said. “He was a great guy. What I’ve learned about him—I only met him twice—but what I’ve learned about him from the players who played for him is that they revered him. Forty, 50 years later, they still talk about him with such reverence. To win the trophy for Queen’s in his name, I think it’s quite special.”

Sheahan said the timing is especially appropriate given the rededication of Tindall Field this year.

“Given the fact that Frank’s spirit and image have been brought back to Queen’s in such a way, it’s nice that we could follow through with that,” he said.

Sheahan said when he took over the Gaels’ program nine years ago, there was a lot of pressure to follow in the successful footsteps of coaches like Tindall and Doug Hargreaves, Queen’s only other recipient of the Frank Tindall Trophy.

“I think there’s pressure everywhere you coach, but certainly there was some at Queen’s,” he said. “Queen’s had won the national title. They had a historic legacy in football, so that brings with it its own pressure.”

Sheahan said he’s pleased with the results so far.

“The first step is to get the program back to the same level and then keep getting there,” he said. “We would have liked to have brought a little more hardware back to Queen’s this year, but that’s football and that’s life. We’ll be back.”

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