The golf might be serious, but the real reason most of the Gryphon football players of years gone by return to play in the annual Friends of Gryphon Football Golf Tournament is to hang out with former teammates and swap stories.
“We were at the very first one at Angus Glen and I’ve been at every one since then,” said Gryphon great running back Gerrit Stam following this year’s tournament at the Guelph Lakes Golf Club.
“We mark it in the calendar every year and we get to see everybody. The stories are the same and the guys are the same and we get to hear about their families and stuff like that. But it’s about reminiscing and seeing everyone again is just great.”
Actually, the stories have likely changed a little in the years since Stam played.
“As your memories get worse, the stories get better.”
One of the best running backs to ever wear a Gryphon uniform, Stams says he cherishes the bonds he made with teammates more than the stats.
“It’s really the relationships and that’s probably why we keep coming back, the relationships that we built. We were lucky enough to win the (Yates Cup) championship in ’96 and that made some good bonds there. It’s really the guys – the players and the coaches that we got to know over the years that your best memories are really about.”
Stam scored 23 touchdowns, all rushing, during his five-year stint with the Gryphons. That stood as the all-time team rushing TD mark until surpassed by Johnny Augustine who scored 28. Stam would’ve seen Augustine play during his five-year stint with the Gryphons.
“We usually get out to a couple of games a year, which is great,” Stam says. “You get to see some guys there, too, and you get to see the new kids coming and the new talent coming in and the new facilities and things like that which is just phenomenal to see.”
Of course Stam is envious of the football facilities at the University of Guelph now.
“You think that, oh, it would be nice play in some of these facilities, but facilities aside, you make it what it is. We thought we had pretty good facilities back in the day and now they’ve upgraded which is amazing to see.”
Following his playing days, Stam stuck around to help coach for a few seasons before stepping away from the program due to family commitments.
“I helped out when I finished playing. I coached for a few years and then ran the golf tournament for probably about 10 years and did the alumni things. Now I’ve stepped back a little bit, but we still try to help out a little bit here and there where we can for the alumni events. Mainly, it’s just being a fan which has been the fun part.”
It doesn’t seem possible, but it’s been more than 20 years since Stam started his playing days with the Gryphons.
“It doesn’t, but then you start to talk to the players and you start to add up the years and it’s like, oh my goodness, it’s been (that long). It’s unbelievable how it goes because it absolutely feels like it was yesterday.”
Like the players joining the Gryphon program this year, Stam had veterans and former players tell him that the five years would go by in a hurry and like today’s freshmen, he didn’t believe that would be true.
“It is so true. That’s what we were telling some of the current players out there today. It goes so fast. We remember 25 years ago here talking to the Cluffers (Brian Cluff) and the Pavans (Rob Pavan) and stuff like that and they were saying, hey, it’s going to go quick and it does.”
So he has a little advice for the current Gryphons.
“For the young guys, it’s just enjoy your time here and make every moment because it does go quick. You learn lessons here playing football and being a champion, leading and being a part of a team. Those are lessons you can live out throughout life. It’s really about maximizing as much as you can here and bring it to the rest of your life.”