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Father and son unite on Guelph Gryphons' sideline

Pat Sheahan, who has among the all-time most Canadian university wins, takes on offensive line coach duties along side head coach Ryan Sheahan

Guelph Gryphons head coach Ryan Sheahan must have a feeling of déjà vu after being reunited with his father, legendary football coach Pat Sheahan, on the same coaching staff.

But there is a difference this time, as Pat, who sits sixth in the list of all-time wins by a head coach in Canadian university football, has joined Ryan’s Gryphons as the offensive line coach and an offensive assistant.

The two were last on the same staff together in 2014 when they were with the Queen’s Gaels, Ryan’s sixth on the team led by his father.

“It's a great feeling,” Ryan says. “I looked at it through two different lenses and the most important one is that I think we brought on one of the best coaches to ever do it to join our staff and our team.

"I feel our team is going to benefit from it in a huge way. He's one of the greats. He's still top six all-time in wins and the fact that we're going to have him coach the offensive line and share some of his expertise on the offensive side of the ball when it comes to schemes is going to be great for the Guelph Gryphons.

“Through the other lens, I had a great working relationship with my father those bunch of years at Queen's. Those were good years. He was my first teacher when it came to coaching and all things football so it's got a personal connection that can't be denied. I'm really excited by the fact that we're going to have him here and our relationship is going to continue to be awesome.”

Since they were last together at Queen’s, the Sheahans took the exact same path to the Gryphon squad as both were offensive coordinators with the Calgary Dino’s, Pat replacing his son in that job after Ryan became head coach in Guelph.

Pat, who retired from the Dinos following the 2021 season, replaces Mike MacDonald who retired as the Gryphons’ offensive line coach at the end of last season.

In the time since Ryan left Queen’s, he and his father have talked frequently.

“We still talk almost every day,” Ryan says. “Sometimes it was about a play, sometimes about a player, sometimes about recruiting and sometimes just about family stuff. Yeah, we kept in constant contact and the conversations have always been great back-and-forths. He's got an idea and I've got a counter-idea or I've got a question and he's got an answer. He always provides great perspective so now that he's 'retired' we're going to retain his services as a position coach and an offensive assistant here. It's going to be great.”

Ryan feels his father won’t require much time to become familiar with the Gryphon playbook as they’ve already had talks about the team’s personnel, both players and coaches.

“From a schematic standpoint, our playbooks are very, very similar,” Ryan says. “He does a few things slightly different with different terminology and some different labelling and that's great because it provides great perspective. My version of this offence had morphed since I left his side at the end of 2014 when I started my pathway out west."

Ryan also feels the change from MacDonald as the offensive line coach to his father will be a pretty smooth one.

“They're in the same age bracket, they're both great communicators and are passionate about helping student athletes,” Ryan says. “Everybody here loves Mike MacDonald, no question. We're going to miss him and we wish him all the best. It was kind of one of those bittersweet things. We're sad to see him go, but we're happy for him and his wife that they're finally going to be doing some of the things they want to accomplish in this life.

“How different are they? My father's been coaching for my whole life – he's been coaching 40 years now and he's still one of the best ever to do it and if you ask anybody in any football circle, he's what I call an A list celebrity in the university football world. The rest of us, us younger guys, we're B listers compared to the Pat Sheahans, the Greg Marshalls, the Blake Nills, the Glen Constantins, the Brian Dobies and so on and so on. My father's a great communicator, a good tactician and he definitely has a great track record of getting the most out of his players. I'm excited for what he's going to bring to this group because the offensive line here's pretty good.”

Pat recorded 156 wins as a head coach in Canadian university football regular-season and playoff action. Those came in 30 seasons as a head coach, 11 with Concordia and 19 with Queen’s.

His win totals are surpassed by Brian Towriss (196 wins in 33 seasons with Saskatchewan), Constantin (191 wins in 19 seasons with Laval), Greg Marshall (177 wins in 20 seasons, the last 13 with Western), Larry Haylor (169 wins in 22 seasons with Western), and Nill (161 wins in 22 seasons, the last five with UBC). Dobie has 112 wins in 25 seasons at Manitoba.

Ryan also figures Pat won’t have any problem adjusting to being a Gryphon coach after having the Guelph squad as an opponent during his days with Queen’s.

“My father is the ultimate professional in my mind,” Ryan says. “This is his next assignment and he's already rocking the Gryphon red, black and gold golf shirt and sweatshirt that we provided him and he's excited to be here ... I believe in the Gryphon colours and he does now, too. We're passionate about helping this team and I think we made a great move for the future of our ball club.”