From tricolour to diehard double blue
Bryan Crawford, Artsci’05, didn’t start playing football until he was in grade 12, but his success as a Queen’s Gael prompted the Toronto Argonauts to draft him into the Canadian Football League as soon as he graduated. He has been playing professionally ever since.
A hockey player originally, Bryan made the switch from the ice to the gridiron to join friends who were enjoying playing on their high school team. “I’d always wanted to play and was fortunate enough to go to a really, really good football school in Hamilton: Barton Secondary School,” Bryan says. “Finally I just decided ‘enough with hockey’ and started playing football. I guess you could say that it has worked out.”
The five-foot, ten-inch, 204-pound running back chose Queen’s after he was the subject of an extensive recruiting process that allowed him to visit several campuses. A football program steeped in tradition caught his attention, but the academic side of the University is what sealed the deal for him. “For me, Queen’s was just head-and-shoulders above the rest,” he recalls. “The opportunity to go to Queen’s and receive my degree there was too good an opportunity to pass up.”
Bryan credits Berkeley Brean, the Gaels’ legendary running back coach, with making a huge impact on him and his life. Berkeley died in 2006 and, as Bryan recalls, “it was a tough loss for everybody. He made a lot of impact on all the players, and all the individuals who had been around him, and had worked with him.”
Playing at Queen’s helped Bryan prepare for a pro career. “The way that the team is coached at Queen’s, the systems that we used, were really transferable to the professional game,” he says. “We played a style of offense that was very similar to the first offense that I was in with the Argos, so that learning curve was a lot less steep than I think it is for a number of other players.”
The Hamilton native, who is married to Catherine (Foreman), Artsci’06, an event planner at McMaster University, is also busy off the field. Bryan works as the program coordinator for Ontario University Athletics (the OUA). He’s responsible for scheduling, rules, awards, and statistics for all 23 men’s and women’s intercollegiate sports offered by Ontario universities.
He also works with the ALS Society of Ontario, something he became involved in after losing an aunt to the disease. Working with a friend, he has also helped raise around $130,000 over four years in support of the Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton through an event called the Climb for Cancer on the Niagara Escarpment.
With his football career, his work at the OUA, and his community involvement (not to mention a home renovation), Bryan acknowledges he keeps pretty busy. But that’s okay with him.“Growing up as a kid in an athletic family you always dream about playing professionally,” he says. “When I was a kid, it was playing hockey. But once I started playing football, I said ‘Let’s see where this takes me.’”
But what about his family—lifelong Ticat fans? Brian laughs. “Oh, they’re all diehard double blue fans now!”