Local recruits bring excitement

Last year, a much-hyped American quarterback fell into the lap of Laurier football head coach, Gary Jeffries.

Shane Kelly, the 24-year-old MBA and a one-time starter for Columbia University was to be the Hawks’ playmaking saviour.

Kelly and the Hawks lost their season opener to Western in a 46-1 thrashing, and ended their campaign with a 32-31 instant-classic loss to Ottawa in the
Ontario University Athletics (OUA) semifinals.

While sputtering out of the gate early, Kelly suffered numerous injuries during the year and a concussion in the final game. But the American evolved and found his game just in time for the playoffs.

The message was clear to Jeffries.

“You can never predict these things,” said the coach, describing the process of trying to pan out the careers of future prospects.

“I just see these [new recruits] as kids that will be competitive from the first day of camp… No one has entitlement to anything.”

And for next year’s crop of players, making the team just got tougher.

“The class is bigger than we anticipated,” said Jeffries.

“We were looking to add about 30 kids [out of 60 potential prospects]. We ended up with 40 committing, which is over 60 per cent of the kids we spoke to.

“That’s by far the most success we’ve ever had in recruiting.”
Jeffries cites 17 of the 40 new prospects as “blue-chip, A+” kids who have the ability to play immediately.

Eleven hail from the Toronto region, while nine already call Kitchener-Waterloo home.

From the extensive list of newbies, Jeffries mentions three “outstanding defensive backs” in Fabian Ross and Adam Olsen from Winnipeg and Halifax respectively, and Horatio Finniken from Mississauga.

“[Offensive and defensive] linemen were important this year,” said Jeffries. “We had to shore up those two areas.”

Jeffries labels Dillon Campbell from Pickering as an “outstanding running-back” and Greg Nyhof of Georgetown as a “quarterback of the future, and a big kid who can run.”

“The list goes on,” said the coach.

What commonalities do these kids share beyond talent?

“Character young men,” said Jeffries. “Of the 40 [new players], we’ve met their moms and dads and you get a pretty good idea of what these kids are like.”

Both Jeffries and recruiting co-ordinator Pat Crabbe spoke glowingly of Karsten Beney, a receiver from local high school, Bluevale Collegiate.

“I like to win championships and I think Laurier is the best team out there that gives me the best shot to do that,” said Beney. “They have a very competitive program…. The coaching staff made me feel like a member of the team, even as a recruiting chip.”

Once big-name players like Kelly, Ross, Olsen, Finniken, Campbell and Beney commit, the rest of the class almost line up for a position with the Hawks.

“Once your recruiting list is public, and people start to see who’s choosing Laurier, then that domino effect takes place,” said Jeffries.

But these kids are probably more likely to listen to their peers then coaches pitching their program.

“Our best recruiters are the players… They go back to their hometowns and talk about their good experiences at Laurier. These are things kids will listen to for sure.”

“The campus is nice and small and everyone is really friendly,” said Beney.

So what can the Hawks expect from the local receiver?

“Hard work,” said the Bluevale grad. “I think I have my own personal challenges of always getting better… My ability to learn and be teachable and coachable is a good asset.”

While some of the rookies’ careers may not pan out as planned, Jeffries and his staff will certainly hope Beney’s attitude is infectious in the locker room.

“I always went to their games, hoping one day I could play for them,” said Beney. “Playing for Laurier is just going to be amazing.”