When the captains of past teams that played on the University of Guelph campus dropped by to watch the current Gryphons practice and then share stories over lunch and coffee, Wayne Gerrie might have been a bit of a rarity.
A two-way player, as most were in his day, Gerrie had the distinction of having been a captain for four of his five years and he served in that position on teams with both the Aggies and Redmen monikers.
“I started with the Aggies,” the 86-year-old said from the Alumni Stadium sidelines. “My first three years were with coach (Bill) Mitchell with the Aggies. Coach Mitchell was head of the athletic department and then Jay Fry, who came over from the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen, he coached us and we were the Redmen. Both coaches were excellent, excellent men.”
The Aggies were named for the Ontario Agricultural College and the Redmen were from the Ontario Veterinary College although they were never separate squads and they played on a field behind the OVC.
“We had a small change room at the end of the campus,” Gerrie recalled. “When visitors came, they were sent over to the vet college to change and the sneaky thing was that they put them in the anatomy lab to change and there were all these dead horses hanging there with their muscles showing. We had an advantage.”
Gerrie played from 1951 to 1955 inclusive and graduated from OVC in 1956. After that he had his own veterinary practice, Mohawk Animal Clinic in Hamilton, his hometown, for 35 years. He also met his wife in Guelph.
“Bill Howden was our equipment manager,” Gerrie said. “He took me home for supper and I married his daughter and 63 years later we’re still together.”
Gerrie remembers fondly his days with both the Aggies and Redmen and is quick to state that his best game was one were his offensive play stood out.
“Probably the best game I had was a game against McMaster,” he said. “I had 19 carries and had 199 yards.”
He also recalled first attending the Aggies practices.
“The players we had were excellent guys. When I came in the first year, I thought I was a midget. The team was huge,” he said. “I weighed 190 pounds and I still weigh 190 pounds.”
He calls Jay Fry was a great man who was a tough coach.
“Nothing wrong with that,” he said. “Jay always had the attitude that at practice we worked like hell and then on Saturday we dressed up in our best and had fun. He was a great coach that way.”
Back in his playing days, Gerrie felt the team was fortunate to practice when they did because it meant they’d be later than most to arrive for dinner.
“It was a small college then and we all played together and everyone on campus pretty well ate together at Creelman Hall,” he said. “The fact that we were the football team, we had the nice part because we were the last ones in so we could pick up all the food we wanted and take it back to our rooms – pies, desert.”
After watching the current Gryphons practice, Gerrie couldn’t help but notice all the equipment they have.
“Their practices are phenomenal,” he said. “I wish we had half the equipment they have to play with.”
He also noticed the number of players on the field as the Gryphons had around 105 attend their training camp.
“We had two full teams and maybe six or seven spares -- maybe 30 to 35 players,” Gerrie said. “How the heck does the coach remember their names?”