Like father, like son

The D’Andrea family remembers two generations playing and coaching on two Richardson fields

Ben D’Andrea (#26) salutes the Richardson faithful during the 2009 run to the Vanier Cup.
Ben D’Andrea (#26) salutes the Richardson faithful during the 2009 run to the Vanier Cup.
Journal File Photo

Richardson Stadium may have undergone a massive transformation over the past year, but Queen’s football assistant coach Ben D’Andrea is still unsure exactly how to feel about it.

Now in his second year on the coaching staff, D’Andrea played five years for the Gaels as a defensive back from 2008-12 in the old incarnation of Richardson Stadium, winning a Vanier Cup as national champion in 2009 — the team’s most recent trophy.

“It’s bittersweet,” he said of the stadium’s reconstruction. 

Unsurprisingly, he described his most memorable moment of his playing career at Richardson as a play that’s gone down in Queen’s football lore: Jimmy Allin’s full-field punt return touchdown in the 2009 national semi-final against Laval in front of a sold-out crowd.

“I remember blocking on that play and hearing the crowd noise as we ran down the field. I’ll never forget that,” he said. “That whole year was incredible, we had a very special group of guys.”

But while there’s many highlight moments to pull from his playing career, the thing he’ll miss most about the actual stadium was the competitive advantage that’s now gone from the grass field — a rarity in modern university sport. 

“None of our opponents were comfortable playing on it,” he said.

While the memories hold a special place in D’Andrea’s heart, he does accept that there’s an upside to the new Richardson experience.

“I think it’s probably the best university football stadium in Canada now.”

Though his own career at Richardson has plenty of talking points, D’Andrea’s not alone in his family as he’s a second-generation Gael.

His father Jim was a team captain, a 1978 Vanier Cup champion and a member of the Queen’s Hall of Fame.

“Seeing the old pictures of my dad and his buddies at Queen’s is sort of what inspired me to start playing football in the first place,” D’Andrea said. 

Jim described a goal line stand in a 1978 playoff game with Carleton as his most memorable moment at Richardson in an email interview with The Journal. Backed up against their own goal line, the Gaels used a new defensive package they’d only practiced “a couple of times that week.” Three plays later, the Gaels came out with a turnover on downs. 

“Our coaches could not figure out what defence we were playing, but it worked out brilliantly!” Jim said.  

Growing up in Calgary and attending Western Canada High School, the younger D’Andrea wasn’t always certain if he’d attend his father’s alma mater. 

A series of conversations with high school coach Sean Timmons, his father, and current Gaels head coach Pat Sheahan convinced D’Andrea that Queen’s would be the right fit for him. 

After graduation, D’Andrea began working for a private company called KING Athletics in a strength and conditioning role in both Calgary and Ottawa. After a few years, D’Andrea saw a job opening at Queen’s last year for defensive assistant and immediately applied, beginning work shortly after that.

His new role, which he began last August, involves working primarily with the team’s defensive backs. 

And while the team’s not had much success at 0-3, D’Andrea has high hopes for the current roster. 

“We’re still dealing with a group that’s very much coming of age,” Ben said. “I don’t think our record reflects the talent level at all.”

Though Jim is nearly four decades removed from his playing days, he keeps in constant involvement with the team and his son’s role, even while in Calgary and often travelling the world.

“[We try to] talk every week and discuss what is happening with the team and the DB’s,” Jim said, who watches as many games as he can online. 

And while Jim has his own impressive resume, he does find himself constantly learning new things about football from his son.

“I am truly amazed by Ben’s knowledge and understanding of the game and how he tries to put his athletes in the best possible position to succeed.”

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