by Tieja MacLaughlin
Mention Wilfrid Laurier Athletics to anyone familiar with Ontario University Athletics, and you can be sure the name Gary Jeffries will come up.
Coach Jeff’s legacy at Laurier dates back to the 70’s, when he suited up as a player on WLU’s football squad. After his playing career Gary remained with the Hawks as a coach. Following stops with both the men’s and women’s basketball teams, he landed back with the football program. A tenure which would last over three decades.
I myself have been privileged to cover Coach Jeff’s Golden Hawks for the past four years as a sideline reporter. More importantly, I’ve come to know the kind of heart and soul individual that Gary is.
Some of my fondest memories at Laurier include Coach. He welcomed me – a young, inexperienced reporter with little football experience – in and taught me some amazing things about the game I’m sure even the most seasoned reporter would relish in.
I always likened Coach Jeff to one of those mob bosses in gangster films – the infamous father figure that protects his family at all costs. If you’re a member of the Golden Hawk family, you know Coach Jeff has your back. He demands your very best – your utmost commitment and respect; in return you get to call yourself a member of the family, learning the wisdom of the best and working towards a shot at greatness.
I remember one particular visit with friends to Southampton, a beautiful spot on the water where Coach spends the off-season. The small town has a single pub downtown where they all know Gary by name. By the end of our visit one evening, the entire crowd had broke out in a rendition of Country Roads – Laurier’s signature football anthem. It’s those kinds of moments you can spend years trying to recreate.
Many people often forget Coach Jeff spent time with the Detroit Tigers. To look at all of the old sports memorabilia and hear stories always fascinates me. Gary has a wealth of knowledge, which I’m sure I’ll still continue to pick his brain about long after he’s retired.
For your bear hugs, your spirit and your legacy, I thank you Coach Jeff.