This year seems promising for U of T’s
football team as Greg Gary rolls into his second season as head coach of the Blues. With his many years of experience as a player and coach, he has what it takes to coach his team on the fundamental skills needed to win championships.
Gary grew up in Claremont, California, where he later received a basketball scholarship to California State University as a point guard. It was not until his third year at CSU that Gary made the transition from basketball to football.
“I was a point guard—a scoring point guard, so just want to make that clear—but I started growing sideways rather than taller,” Gary chuckles.
His transition to football couldn’t have been any smoother: he went on to become the captain of the football team and winner of the Ironman Award in 1981.
His success didn’t stop there. In 1982, Gary signed on as a free agent with the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams until heading up north a year later, where he played for four years as a linebacker with the Hamilton Tiger Cats, winning the Grey Cup in 1986.
Gary’s coaching career didn’t start until 10 years after he moved to Canada, when an opportunity arose to coach his son’s football team in the Mississauga Football League. While his son progressed as a player, so did Gary as a coach. He went on to become the head coach of the Warriors Rep football team in 2005, leading them to an Ontario Varsity Football League Junior Varsity championship in 2008.
Now, with more than 20 years of coaching under his belt, Gary has the knowledge and expertise of the game needed for the Varsity Blues’ success this football season.
Gary places great emphasis on fundamental skills when coaching the Blues. He imparts these skills to the team through rigorous training sessions, which he takes very seriously.
“It is essential to understand the fundamentals and systems of the sport and transfer these skills and body movements on the field,” he explains.
Having played two sports at a competitive level, Gary has the ability to see each game in a different light—or, as he says, to “see the game and break it down into small pieces”. He sees players in the NFL who don’t understand the workings of the game, and who seem more engrossed in showmanship than in sportsmanship. Gary wants his players to stay away from this pitfall that is popularized by professional athletes, and instead to focus on sound playing.
“He likes to get his players to do the best they can and to work to their fullest potential, no matter what the outcome is. His methods work, and he pushes us even when we think we can’t go anymore,” says Larry Broni, a UTM student starting his first season with the Blues this year. “He’s a motivator and he’s real. He tells you how it is—no sugar-coating anything. And that’s what we need as players.”
Gary is a firm believer in the here and now, focussing on each individual game rather than on the overall history of the team. He’s not concerned about the success of the Blues in the past, or lack thereof, but about whether or not their hard work and dedication in the present will challenge the opposing team.
There’s a new batch of players on the Blues team this year, new ingredients in what is already a stew of talent. A handful of players hail from UTM, solidifying our campus’s place on the team and showcasing the talent we have to offer.
“UTM is a huge piece of what we’re doing with this program; it’s one of the pillars,” says Gary.
The greatest challenge for the Blues this season is the ability to regain confidence and overcome the devastating losing streak they suffered last season. But a new season means a new beginning. With Greg Gary and his coaching staff, and if the Blues recapture the skill they showed last year against Laurier, they will be headed for great success.