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Gerry McGrath


Rookie football coach Gerry McGrath has his work cut out for him. Full of promise for the 2000 season, the Concordia Stingers stumbled out of the gate last Saturday, losing their opening CIAU contest 20-15 to the McGill Redmen at Molson Stadium.

It doesn't get any easier for the Stingers, who travel to Quebec City this weekend to play the Laval Rouge et Or — the defending Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union champions. An 0-2 start would put Concordia in deep trouble in the short eight-game regular season.

"We have been stressing discipline and passion leading up to our first game," said McGrath. "I saw very little of that in the game. That has to change — and it will."

McGrath, 41, takes over the reins of the Stingers after serving as offensive co-ordinator for eight seasons under head coach Pat Sheahan, who resigned last winter to take the head coaching job at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont. McGrath was a kicker in the Canadian Football league from 1980-86 with the Montreal Alouettes and Concordes, Toronto, Ottawa and Saskatchewan.

All the while, the Point St. Charles native has proved to be an ardent student of the game. He has kept in-depth notes and files on football strategies for more than 20 years.

He is regarded as a top-notch offensive coach whose innovations at the Quebec junior and semi-professional levels have heavily influenced the game in the province. Three of his former players are playing in the CFL: André Bolduc and Sylvain Girard for the Alouettes, and Denis Montana for the B.C. Lions.

Both Girard and Montana attended National Football League camps before signing in the CFL. "I've been running on raw energy since taking over the team from Pat," McGrath said. "It's been hectic, and our coaching staff has had no spare time, but that's what it's going to take to make this a winning season at Concordia — a commitment from all the players and coaches."

McGrath leaves his Pierrefonds home at 7:30 most mornings and often doesn't get home until 10:30 p.m. He lives, eats and sleeps football "seven days a week." "I'm a players coach — I'll do anything for them," he said. "In return, the players have to do more than show up. We have a tradition of excellence that we have to maintain. "We have a solid family atmosphere here, and it will translate into wins on the field," he continued. "It's our job to make that happen."

McGrath says that today's football player is bigger, faster and understands the game better than players he coached five or six years ago. "Most of the players come to camp better prepared both physically and mentally," he said. "The football situation here in Quebec has never been stronger."

Coaching football is a full-time proposition for McGrath. Once the season ends, he is planning to go to southern Ontario, where he'll visit six high schools a day looking for potential Stingers.

He believes there are many selling points to university life in Montreal. "The city is dynamic and Concordia is what a university should be," he said. Many of the professors come from the world of business, the arts, communications. In our own way, I think we surpass McGill."

McGrath and the Stingers will get a chance to prove that on the football field when the Redmen visit Concordia for the annual Shrine Bowl Game on September 23.










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