It likely surprised none of his teammates when fifth-year defensive back Orion Edwards hugged each of the 10 former winners of the Gryphons’ Ted Wildman Award in attendance when he was named the 2017 recipient of the award.
“It’s just how I greet people,” he said afterwards. “I’m extremely honoured to win this award. I’m humbled to be selected for it. It’s such a prestigious club. I’ve known the past five Wildman winners and I’ve looked up to them and I saw them as mentors myself. I’m extremely humbled, that’s all I can say.”
The former winners were invited to the stage at Creelman Hall before Edwards was announced the winner. After hugging the former winners, Edwards decided to abandon his original planned speech and talk to his teammates and coaches straight from the heart speech. The former winners got another hug when he left the stage.
“When I came in my first year as a brand new Christian, I was only a few months old, and I said I wanted to serve God with all my heart and my soul and that’s how it was going to be at university as well,” Edwards said in his emotional speech. “To be honest, I was a little nervous and I came in and I said ‘Guys, I’m a Christian. I don’t do this and I don’t do that.’ And they said ‘Who cares? You’re my brother.’ I appreciate every single one of you guys for that.
“I’ll always remember the close games – the double overtime, the overtime games, the close games, the games we won, the Yates Cup (win of 2015). I’ll remember the tears that we shared when we lost, the tears that we shared when we won, the hugs.
“I’ll cherish the summers that we spent together grinding, running hills, lifting heavy weights. Thank you because you made my experience so memorable.
“I was always taught that to reach your goals you must strive to be better than you were yesterday. You can’t be satisfied with where we were yesterday as athletes, students and people.”
“Within each and every one of you, you have the potential to be great. You’ve got the potential to be great and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You have it in you and this applies to more than just football. I truly believe this because if you’re sitting in one of these chairs, it means that you’ve at the very least been to Gryphon football camp. It means you’re able to grind and it means that if you commit to something, you finish something. It means you can look adversity in the eye and say ‘I will outlast you.’
“If you’re on this team, you’ve gone through some sort of grind and right now I’m asking you to see yourself that way. You are a champion. You are a champion, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You have the DNA of a champion within you, a conqueror, a warrior. Apply yourself to every facet of your life. Take chances and take advantages of the many opportunities you’ll have here at the U of G. Care for others and remind them that they, too, are champions and can change the world. Mature and become grown men.”
The Wildman Award is presented annually to the Gryphon football player who displays excellence in the classroom, community and on the field.
While Edwards was a member of the OUA all-rookie team in 2013, he was selected to participate in the East-West all-star game of 2016, but suffered an injury there that kept him out of a Gryphon uniform that season. He returned last fall and recorded 19 tackles and a team-high three breakups.
However, he felt bad that his co-nominees couldn’t be on the stage accepting the award with him.
“The guys who were nominated, those are my best friends,” he said of running back Johnny Augustine, linebacker Derek Drouillard and defensive back Justis Croasdale.
As for his off-field work, Edwards kept himself busy. He went with Power to Change on a mission trip to southeast Asia to learn how to prevent human trafficking and help those affected by it, is the leader of Student Athletes in Action at the university, led the team’s partnership with the Guelph Foodbank, went with Athletes in Action on a mission trip to the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games, is a member of the Guelph Sign Language Club and is the team chaplain, leading the players in prayers before and after games.
Punter/kicker Gabe Ferraro was named the winner of the Donald Forster Trophy as the team’s most valuable player. He set the U Sports record for most field goals in a single season (33), breaking the mark set by his brother and current Gryphon coach Daniel Ferraro three years earlier.
“Honestly I’m shocked,” Gabe said of winning the award. “It’s such an honour. Just playing for this team is an honour. Being a part of this team, having these coaches and teammates around me is such an honour. I’m really excited and shocked.”
And it was special that the award was presented to him by his brother Daniel, who somehow kept that a secret.
“That was very special,” Gabe said. “Just having him here, even as a coach just staying around after he was done, was so amazing. To have him present the award was really, really special. I had no idea.”
Offensive player of the year was running back Johnny Augustine.
“It shows that all the five years that have gone by and how the team recognizes me,” he said. “It means a lot from the coaching staff to the teammates to choose me for this award so I’m really privileged and honoured.”
Like the other award winners, the memorable moments of 2017 weren’t singular moments from games.
“The games that we lost, we still stood strong and I think that’s what really defines a man, a character, a team,” Augustine said. “It’s not about all the wins, it’s about how you respond to adversity. The losses and how we came about our business the next day, it’s not like we even lost. I think that’s what stood out to me.”
It was a bit of a different season for Augustine as he started the campaign as a slotback before being moved back to his usual running back position.
“It definitely was a bit of a change, but I understood what it was for,” he said. “It’s funny, everyone knows me as the star running back or whatever, but at the end of the day I’d do anything for the team. If you’d put me at kicker, I can’t kick, but I’d do it. Wherever they put me, wherever the team required me at, that was my goal to help them. I’m privileged and honoured to play for the Guelph Gryphons.”
Defensive player of the year was defensive back Nick Parisotto.
“This award means a lot to me,” he said. “There’s been quite a few prestigious alumni that have won this award in the past and a lot of my close friends like Tristan Doughlin, Curtis Newton and Cam Walker – guys I work out with consistently and guys that I’ve looked up to my whole career so it definitely means a lot to me to be put in the same category as these guys and to be considered the type of player that they were. It’s really humbling.”
And it was the interaction with teammates that made 2017 memorable for Parisotto.
“The stuff that stands out the most to me, being an older guy it’s going to sound really cliché, but it’s the bonds. Being at practice every single day and doing those simple things and going to meetings and having to spend time with my best friends every day and going through the stuff that we love is incredible. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience and I’m really grateful for it.”
The team’s rookie of the year for 2017 is defensive lineman Sandor Mod.
“It means a lot,” he said. “It’s a big honour. Coming in my first year thinking I’m not going to play very much to being a starter and winning this award, it means a lot. But it’s not just hard work by myself, it comes from the team. I wouldn’t be here without the motivation from all my teammates and the older guys especially giving me some guidance. It means a lot. It means I’ve got a lot more years left in me to improve, but this is definitely a good start.”
Mod was appreciative of being accepted right away by his teammates, especially those on the defensive line with him.
“The biggest thing that stands out the most to me is the inclusiveness. The guys accepted me to the family, even though I was a first-year starting. They treated me like I was an equal. They showed me the ways and I grew off of it. That’s a big thing that really stood out to me. It’s something that I have to take on for the younger guys who come in.”
Other award winners were long snapper Job Reinhart (special teams player of the year), offensive lineman Andrew Pickett (lineman of the year), Croasdale (Captain's Award), receiver Jacob Scarfone (Richard P. Kohler Perseverance Award), quarterback James Roberts (Granite Gryphon Award), Edwards (Pflug Family Community Service Award), Drouillard (Kyle Walters Trophy), defensive lineman Matt Reuter (Unsung Hero Award), receiver Eric Deschambault and defensive back Kyle Funk (Scout Team Players of the Year), Sarah Shepherd (Support Staff award), Lauren Sirrs (Academic Support Award) and Claudio Silvestri of Hamilton’s St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School (Riddell Coach of the Year).