Ryan Sheahan to CFL

Queen’s coach signs with Tiger-Cats

Former Queen’s football coach Ryan Sheahan starts a job with the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats today after signing a one-year deal to become the team’s running backs coach.

The Tiger-Cats’ new head coach, George Cortez, called Sheahan on Jan. 27 and invited him to Hamilton for a meeting on Feb. 1. After a 90-minute interview at the team’s complex, Sheahan was offered a job on the spot and accepted on Feb. 3.

“This whole [process] has been a whirlwind of excitement and I’m just trying to get my feet back on the ground,” Sheahan said. “It was a really tough decision, it had to be made fast. Basically I spent 36 hours mulling it over.”

Sheahan spent the past four seasons working under his father, head coach Pat Sheahan, as the football team’s assistant offensive coach and quarterbacks coach. In 2011, he was promoted to assistant offensive co-ordinator.

Prior to coaching, Sheahan played quarterback at Queen’s for five seasons, backing up Gaels legend Tommy Denison from 2000 to 2003 and sharing the starting job with Ali Clarkson in 2004.

Last June, Sheahan worked as a guest coach at the CFL’s BC Lions training camp under Lions offensive co-ordinator Jacques Chapdelaine.

Cortez, who has coached with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills and the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s California Golden Bears, signed with the Tiger-Cats on Jan. 7.

Before hiring assistant coaches, Cortez consulted Chapdelaine, who recommended Sheahan.

“What an opportunity for me to learn from a man with his reputation,” Sheahan said. “It caught me a little off-guard.

“One of these days I was going to have to leave the Queen’s family in order to establish myself amongst the coaching ranks, and what an opportunity to do it at the highest level within this country.”

Sheahan started as quarterbacks coach during Danny Brannagan’s career with the Gaels. Brannagan spent five seasons as the Queen’s quarterback, culminating in a Vanier Cup victory in 2009.

“He’s done great work here. He put the finishing touches on Danny Brannagan’s career and he’s also been very strategic in helping both [former quarterback] Justin Chapdelaine and [current starter] Billy McPhee develop,” head coach Pat Sheahan said. “He’s a very personable guy, he’s a good teacher, he has got a great relationship with the guys.”

Sheahan said when he spoke to Cortez, it was clear the Tiger-Cats head coach was looking for young and up-and-coming Canadian oaches.

“There’s not many former CIS coaches getting an opportunity like this, it’s a rare opportunity,” Sheahan said. “I’m pleased that one of our coaches from Queen’s is getting that chance.”

The head coach didn’t rule out his own move to the pros later in his career, but said it won’t happen for a while.

“When you’re running a program and raising a family at the same time, obviously opportunities that present themselves with higher amounts of risk aren’t something you can entertain unless the situation is ideal.

“At this particular point I’m happy to keep running the program at Queen’s, but finishing off a stint in the pros might be something we look at down the road.”

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