The Guelph Gryphons have reached in and pulled eight players of their 36-strong recruiting class of 2018 from Quebec.
“We’re really excited with the class we’ve brought in,” Gryphon interim head coach Todd Galloway said. “Every year we sit here and look at it and say that this could be the best class that we’ve ever had and we’re really proud of the work that everybody has put in again this year. I think it addressed some of the needs that we had. With all the talent we currently have in the locker room, we think we’ve filled in the few missing pieces that we need to be a great football team.”
Among those coming from Quebec are linebacker Uriel Kalenga from Champlain-Lennoxville and running back Kwame Osei from John Abbott College, two of the CEGEP schools. In Quebec, students go to CEGEP schools, sort of junior colleges, before moving over to the U Sports schools.
“There are more of us coming from CEGEP and we’re coming with that mentality (of winning) and I think that’s going to help us to grow the team here and to keep that mentality of winning all the time,” Kalenga said.
Kalenga spent three seasons at Champlain-Lennoxville, the last two as a team captain and the first two when Gryphon offensive coordinator Jean-Francois Joncas was the team’s head coach.
“JF really helped me out and I was excited to tell him that I would be coming here because I’d be working with him again, we’d be on the same team,” Kalenga said. “I have a lot of respect for JF.”
While Osei and Kalenga were opponents in CEGEP competition, they actually started playing football as teammates in Montreal 10 years ago.
“We were teammates back in 2008 when I first started playing football,” Osei said. “He came in and we met like that. We won a championship our first year together so I know him from there.”
For Kalenga, that year marked a change in sports. Born in Toronto, he had played soccer there.
“I was a soccer player in the beginning before reaching Montreal,” he said. “One day because there weren’t any teams for me to play soccer with, my dad just brought me a sheet and said ‘Hey, sign up for football. Why don’t you try that?’ Just because I’m active and I wanted to try to do something, I said ‘OK, I’ll check it out.’ I wore my helmet and my shoulder pads and right at the first contact, that’s when I fell in love with the game.”
Most soccer players who transfer to football usually become kickers or punters, but that wasn’t in the cards for Kalenga.
“I could not kick a football at all,” he said. “I think what really benefitted me was more my athletic side. I was able to adapt faster and learn really quickly. It was hard at the beginning, but through time and through work, hard work, I kind of understood the game. I contributed in football in another way than just kicking the ball. That was great. I’ve played almost every position, but the position that suited me best was on the defensive side, linebacker and also halfback.”
Osei sees football as his way to remaining on a good path in life.
“For me, football is like a way out,” he said. “School is not the best thing, but football keeps me going. It’s my motivation everywhere I go. That’s what keeps me straight and keeps me motivated to push on and do good in life.”
Football also keeps him studying and doing the best he can in school. To play university sports, you have to be a university student in good standing. If your marks slip, participation in sports is removed from the equation.
“That’s the motivation,” Osei said. “Every time I’m doing bad in school, I look at it as if I do bad, I’m not going to be coming back on the football field and that pushes me to do better every time.”
It might not sound like it, but schooling was one of the main reasons he chose to attend the University of Guelph.
“Every school is about education, but Guelph offers way more,” Osei said. “They offer a better environment and place to be a better person and also a better football player. I’m going to take advantage of what they’re offering and make myself better.”
Like all the other recruits, the pair have a little over two months to get ready for the start of training camp for the 2018 season.
“I’m already on my grind. I’m really working on my technique and also getting faster,” Kalenga said. “I think that’s what this level is about. You can be the strongest guy there, but if you can’t touch the running back that’s running, you can’t reach him, you won’t make the plays. I’m really working on my technique, my speed work and change of direction.”
“Train every day, eat well, start learning my play book, talk with the coaches since I’m far away,” Osei said. “I won’t be able to make it to the skill practices, so keep in contact with coaches, keep on training and do my best to be ready for training camp.”
While the Gryphons have attracted talent from Quebec, they’ve also recruited eight from London.
“London’s a hotbed for football and we just happened to do very well down there,” Galloway said. “It’s just the way it worked out. We follow where good football is.”
The class also includes a trio who played in the Guelph-centred District 10 high school football league last fall – Brandon Ferigo and Tavius Robinson from the Guelph CVI Green Gaels and Connor Burke from the Bishop Macdonell Celtics.
“That’s so important,” Galloway said. “We’re very excited to try to keep our local talent home. We don’t manage to get every local talent every year, but we do our best to keep the ones who want to be Guelph proud and who want to keep their mark in Guelph. We do our best to keep them home.”
And there are a couple of recruits whose fathers were Gryphon teammates in the late 1980s – receivers Michael O’Shea and Jack Tocher.
The Gryphons are to report to training camp Aug. 9.
Recruiting Class of 2018
The following is the list of Gryphon recruits. It includes their name, position, height, weight, last year’s school and hometown.
Jake Bennett, Rec., 6-foot-1, 170 lbs., Handsworth, North Vancouver
Connor Burke, OL, 6-foot-3, 260 lbs., Bishop Macdonell, Guelph
Jean-Paul Cimankinda, RB, 6-foot-1, 225 lbs., St. Matthew's, Ottawa
Gordon DeJong, OL, 6-foot-4, 225 lbs., West Ferris, Callandar
Brandon Ferigo, LB, 6-foot-0, 215 lbs., Guelph CVI, Guelph
Jared Fernandez-Brown, K/P, 5-foot-9, 160 lbs., Assumption, Burlington
Anthony Hall, LB, 6-foot-0, 225 lbs., John Abbott, Montreal
Andrew Horscroft, QB, 6-foot-1, 180 lbs., St. Benedict, Cambridge
Abdul-Karim Ismail, DB, 6-foot-1, 180 lbs., St. Matthew's, Ottawa
Emmanuel Ituara, FB, 6-foot-0, 230 lbs., Catholic Central, London
Juwan Jeffrey, RB, 5-foot-10, 175 lbs., St. Roch, Brampton
Justin Jelacic, DL, 6-foot-0, 280 lbs., Resurrection Catholic, Kitchener
Noah Johns, Rec., 6-foot-0, 175 lbs., London South, London
Afram Jolak, DT, 6-foot-2, 275 lbs., Champlain-Lennoxville, Ottawa
Uriel Kalenga, LB, 5-foot-11, 195 lbs., Champlain-Lennoxville, Toronto
Jeremy Kapelanksi-Lamoureux, DL, 6-foot-2, 240 lbs., Champlain-Lennoxville, St. Jerome, Que.
Liam LaPointe, OL, 6-foot-4, 265 lbs., John Abbott, Montreal
Matthew MacGillivray, Rec., 6-foot-3, 185 lbs., Catholic Central, London
Spencer Masterson, OL, 6-foot-6, 295 lbs., King City, Richmond Hill
Richard Morris, RB, 5-foot-10, 205 lbs., London South, London
Brendan Murphy, DB, 6-foot-1, 220 lbs., Champlain-Lennoxville, Chateauguay, Que.
Kwame Osei, RB, 5-foot-10, 185 lbs., John Abbott, Dollard des-Ormeaux, Que.
Michael O'Shea, Rec., 6-foot-1, 175 lbs., St. Paul's, Headingley, Man.
Willy Pierre Dimbongi, Rec., 6-foot-2, 185 lbs., St. Matthew's, Ottawa
Robert Proner, DE, 6-foot-2, 230 lbs., Holy Trinity, Oakville
Tavius Robinson, DE, 6-foot-8, 220 lbs., Guelph CVI, Guelph
Etienne Roy, OL, 6-foot-2, 290 lbs., Outouais, Gatineau, Que.
Michael Scarfone, QB, 6-foot-3, 185 lbs., Jean Vanier, Milton
Kiondre Smith, Rec., 6-foot-1, 185 lbs., Bill Crothers, Toronto
Joel Stenning, DL, 6-foot-2, 265 lbs., London South, London
Eric Stranz, K/P, 6-foot-0, 190 lbs., Southwood, Ayr
Tyler Thompson, LB, 6-foot-1, 195 lbs., London South, London
Jack Tocher, Rec., 6-foot-5, 185 lbs., Cochrane, Guelph
Cole Wilkinson, DB, 6-foot-1, 185 lbs., London South, London
Carter Wilson, DE, 6-foot-3, 230 lbs., University of North Dakota, Arnprior
Curtis Woodmansey, DL, 6-foot-3, 260 lbs., Blyth Academy, Toronto