Another Guelph Gryphon is in the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame.
Rob Pavan, a Guelph native who was a linebacker with the Gryphons for four seasons from 1983 to 1986, was inducted into his hometown’s Hall Wednesday night.
Unlike some of the other local high school players, Pavan decided to stay home after graduating from Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School.
“I remember going to Guelph and being excited because I watched them when I was in high school,” he said. “It was a great thrill to play with good guys.”
While he was recruited elsewhere, staying at home was a decision made due to the influence of both then Gryphon coach Tom Dimitroff, father of current Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff, and Pavan’s father.
“I was recruited by Bernie Custis at McMaster and some of my friends were going to go to the Mustangs and I got accepted there, but Tom Dimitroff was a big influence in Guelph football and he recruited me,” Pavan said. “I wouldn’t say highly recruited, but he recruited me and my dad wanted me to stay home. It was a good choice. I got great coaching and we had good teams.”
With the Gryphons, Pavan was an aggressive player and that often got him into squabbles with teammates during the team’s training camps that were held on the multi-purpose fields that were located whee the Gryphon Soccer Complex now sits.
“One thing playing linebacker, you’ve got to be agile, but aggressiveness is important,” he said. “Playing on the edge is important. That was in me. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been a little bit competitive and aggressive. That was pretty true to my nature at that time. Thank God I’m being put in (the Hall) as a veteran (athlete) because I’ve mellowed out.”
Playing for his hometown university also brought its own pressure, but it also led to some good memories.
“With the Gryphons, for sure, just coming in front of my hometown and being a little nervous to fail or to succeed,” he said. “Winning the Vanier Cup, I played behind a guy named Blaine Schmidt who was a future CFLer and a great player and he helped me look good.”
Pavan was hurt during his draft year, but that didn’t stop the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from taking him 33rd overall.
“I’m coming off a year where I had three great games and we were 3-0 and then I was hurt so I was just happy to get drafted that high,” he said. “I went to Winnipeg, made the football team first year and played again with a great team with Tom Clements at quarterback, Willard Reaves at running back, all-stars all over the place. I got to play special teams and it was a great experience. I played a lot of football and I found out what it was like to play faster football.”
He also found that the difference between university football and the pro game wasn’t just on the field.
“I would say it’s a mental jump,” he said. “We already had a guy named Jeff Volpe from the University of Guelph make the team so I thought that if he could make it and he was great, then I had a chance. I thought I could do it, but it’s all speed, especially in the Canadian Football League. That was what my strength was, it was never being a big guy or a bruiser. I was fast enough and agile and the game suited me.”
Pavan graduated from the University of Guelph with a B.A. in Economics and he had a plan for when his playing days were over. As it turned out, they came to an end after two years in the CFL, one with Winnipeg and one with the Ottawa Rough Riders, when he suffered a back injury.
“We have a family business (Golden Triangle Collision) here in town so I went on and I knew I was going to do that, run the business, and that’s been great,” he said. “My injury in football was a back injury. I was a decent enough player, but I knew the writing was on the wall for a long-term situation so going into business was great.”
Pavan found that combining academics and athletics was a balancing act, but it was well worth it.
“One gives up the other a little bit. Being quite truthful, football was very important in those days. I put a lot of hours into it. The academic career, I got through it and I’m very proud that I did. I worked hard enough to get through that, but there were some concessions to be a varsity athlete.”
And the athletics led to Pavan being a member of the only Gryphon team to win the national championship Vanier Cup game as he played in the 1984 final that saw the Gryphons ally for a 22-13 win over the Mount Allison Mounties at Toronto’s Varsity Stadium.
“That’s sort of amazing. I was part of a Yates Cup team and Guelph’s won three other Yates Cups after that. But the Vanier was a moment in time,” he said. “It was a moment in time where we put it all together. We had momentum, luck and we had some skill.
“I look back at it fondly, but to be quite honest with you, I’d love to see the Gryphons do it again. Sometimes when I was younger I thought that it was a good little piece for us to have, but it’s time for it to happen again for Guelph and I think they’re on the way.”