The future was on display when the Guelph Gryphons held their Freshman Day.
While the day has a new name this year, it’s the team’s annual event that sees them greet their recruits for the coming season and the families of the recruits.
It’s also a chance for the recruits to meet the players that will hopefully be their teammates in the red and gold for the next four or five years.
“I’m very excited to get out here and finally meet all my teammates and get everyone together,” said Kristian Stewart, a top-rated linebacker from St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School whose football team was rated No. 1 in the country by Canada Football Chat. “Things look really positive for the upcoming year, for sure.”
While the players will be teammates, they’ll also be competitors as each strives to earn a spot on the Gryphons’ dress roster.
“Obviously they’re competitors, but we’re all here to make everybody better and we’re all going to strive toward the one goal,” Stewart said. “Hopefully we can all feed off each other and the energy and work together to get the championship.”
And each of the recruits feels that the University of Guelph is the right place for them.
“It was the perfect choice for me and my family,” Stewart said. “We’re about 45 minutes to an hour away down in Hamilton. Just with the athletic facilities that they have and the programs that they’re coming in with introducing that commerce and business and sports marketing program. It looks really good for me.”
“Guelph was a good fit for me,” said Siriman Harrison Bagayogo, a defensive back from Bois-des-Filion, Que. “I really feel like I was part of the family when the coaches came to talk to me back in Quebec. They showed me big love big time and they tell me the truth about the position and what they expect from me this year and the next four years. They made me feel like I was part of the team already.”
Last season the Gryphons had eight Quebec natives on the roster and they have four more on this year’s recruiting class.
Bagayogo talked to several of the players from last year’s roster before making up his mind to join them.
“That really helped me because they told me how the coaches are, how the university is, how people take football seriously here and how they want the Vanier (Cup),” he said. “They said to go to Vanier, we need guys and I said, ‘OK, I’m going to be there.’”
Head coach Ryan Sheahan is proud of the first recruiting class assembled by the entire coaching staff.
“I think it’s gone really well,” he said of the recruiting as he stood on the Alumni Stadium field watching that class get their group photo taken. “We’ve made significant additions to the offensive and defensive lines and we’ve brought in a handful of good receivers. They’re talented. We’ve brought in some new quarterbacks and if you take a look across the field here, there’s some good size. We continue to make a dent in the CEGEP system and attract some very good athletes to pursue their academic endeavours outside of the province of Quebec.”
Sheahan and the others coaches are also proud of the academic abilities of all the recruits.
“The best part is that these guys were not a handful to help to get into the school,” he said. “They all did it on their own. A few of them started with us in January. Justin Lauzon (a linebacker from Quebec) came here and took four classes in his second language and got a 91. He’s definitely leading by example.”
As for the football side of things, the players now have about three months to get ready for the start of training camp in mid-August.
“The summer training months cannot be underestimated,” Sheahan said. “We really have to come in as battle ready as we can because the learning curve is very steep coming from high school to university. But that’s our job. I hope they really heed my words and come physically ready to compete because that game on August 25th is going to be an absolute battle.”
“I’m going to go there and I’m going to put my A face on and be there for the team,” Bagayogo said of training camp. “I’ll compete and try to get the spot and try to help the team as much as I can.”
“I’ve just got to be in the gym every day working that much harder because you’re playing against men now,” Stewart said. “It’s not the kids back in high school where anyone can strap on and play. You’ve just want to be the best you can be and be in the weight room every single day and be training. You just can’t take any days off.”
The Gryphons are to start the season with their home opener against the McMaster Marauders. Game time Aug. 25 at Alumni Stadium is 1 p.m.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a while. Even taking the Grade 13 year, I’ve been itching to move on and get to the next level.”
Name, Position, Height, Weight, Hometown
Steven Arcila, LB, 5-foot-11, 194 lbs., Burlington
Siriman Harrison Bagayogo, DB, 6-foot-2, 190 lbs., Bois-des-Filion, Que.
Joshua Campbell, DL, 6-foot-1, 265 lbs., Montreal
Colin Dacyshyn, QB, 6-foot-1, 185 lbs., Etobicoke
Willy-Pierre Dimbongi, Rec., 6-foot-2, 200 lbs., Ottawa
Charlie Doering, LB, 6-foot-3, 225 lbs., Barrie
Matthew Famurewa, OL, 6-foot-2, 292 lbs., Markham
Zach Farray, Rec., 6-foot-0, 188 lbs., Burlington
Kaidan Gilbert, QB, 6-foot-3, 190 lbs., Oakville
Nick Guardiero, K/P, 6-foot-0, 185 lbs., Guelph
Reese Hitterman, DL, 6-foot-1, 265 lbs., Montreal
Noah Holder, Rec., 6-foot-4, 195 lbs., Oakville
Evan Horne, Rec., 6-foot-2, 195 lbs., Brantford
Williams Ike-Joseph, LB, 5-foot-10, 200 lbs., Oakville
Spencer Kennedy, Rec., 6-foot-2, 190 lbs., Hamilton
Matteo Kucinic, OL, 6-foot-4, 300 lbs., Toronto
Ben Lancaster, OL, 6-foot-3, 320 lbs., Ottawa
Justin Lauzon, LB, 5-foot-8, 200 lbs., St. Hyacinthe, Que.
Mason McGriskin, QB, 6-foot-2, 207 lbs., North Bay
Aidan McKeown, QB, 6-foot-2, 195 lbs., Scarborough
Scott Murray, LB, 6-foot-2, 210 lbs., Mississauga
Nicholas Partchenko, OL, 6-foot-4, 260 lbs., Toronto
Lucas Pyz, OL, 6-foot-2, 290 lbs., Innisfil
Will Schmahl, DB, 6-foot-3, 185 lbs., Niagara Falls
Kristian Stewart, LB, 6-foot-4, 206 lbs., Hamilton
Stephen Taylor, LB, 6-foot-1, 205 lbs., Ellicott City, Md.
Keagan Vanderpool, RB, 6-foot-2, 210 lbs., Kitchener
Curtis Woodmansey, DL, 6-foot-3, 290 lbs., Toronto
Noah Wright, OL, 6-foot-0, 260 lbs., Scarb