Canadian Football Hall of Famer and former Queen’s Football assistant coach, Leroy Blugh, is heading back to Kingston, as the former Grey Cup champion joins the Queen’s Gaels as the team’s new defensive line coach for the upcoming 2022 season.
The incoming coach shared plenty of positive words about his new team and colleagues: “[I’m] looking forward to helping out at Queen’s, and they’ve been working very hard. Coach [Steve] Snyder and coach [Ryan] Bechmanis, they’ve worked very hard at recruiting, [and they’re] putting together a good organization. I kind of want to be part of that.”
Blugh’s career as both an athlete and coach has made him a sought-after figure in Canadian football, and a major boost to the Gaels’ organization. Most recently, Blugh served as defensive line coach for the Ottawa Redblacks in the Canadian Football League (CFL) from 2014 to 2019, helping lead the team to a Grey Cup victory in 2016.
In 2020, Blugh was to head to British Columbia to join former Redblacks head coach, Rick Campbell, in a move to the BC Lions organization. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 CFL season was never actually played, and Blugh resigned from the team in July 2021.
Having spent the last nine years in the CFL, Blugh is making his return to the university game this fall, something the coach is quite excited about. “I want to help these guys to experience what I experienced as a player, and hopefully [they’ll] have a great student-athlete career at Queen’s… These guys, in that time period, will become men and possibly [move] on to do either football or lots of greater things. That’s important,” he said.
From 2005 to 2010, Blugh served as head coach of the Bishop’s University Gaiters, helping the team make the playoffs three times throughout his tenure. In 2011, Blugh made the move east, joining the Queen’s Gaels as an assistant coach, leading the team to two consecutive Ontario University Athletics (OUA) semifinal appearances. Given his prior experience with the Tricolour, Blugh will be in familiar surroundings when he returns to Queen’s later this summer.
In fact, Blugh grew up in nearby Napanee, playing high school ball at Napanee District Secondary School, so his upcoming move to Queen’s is a bit of a homecoming.
“I moved here from the West Indies… [but] I’ve been in Napanee since I was five, so this is home for me,” Blugh said of his upbringing in the region. “It’s very good to be back home… I’m usually on the road or away with football, but it’s good to be home and with my wife, and I still get to do football things.”
In Kingston, Coach Blugh will be in familiar company, joining head coach Snyder and assistant coach and defensive coordinator Bechmanis, both of whom he has experience working with.
“I’ve coached with Coach Bechmanis, and I have a little connection with Coach Snyder… I coached at Bishop’s, and we actually played against [St. Francis Xavier University when] Coach Snyder was [coaching]… So we have a bit of a connection that way,” explained the incoming defensive line coach.
Blugh joins the Gaels following a rather eventful 2021 campaign, which saw Queen’s go undefeated in the regular season before winning two consecutive playoff games and earning the right to host the Western Mustangs in the 113th Yates Cup. Unfortunately for the Gaels, Western would dominate that championship game, winning by a score of 29-0.
Blugh said he views his new role as one of a teacher, helping his players to put into practice what they’ve been taught by the other coaching staff. “I just want to help them to maybe go a little faster, help with their recognition of offence… and really go out, have fun, fly around, and really try to implement the techniques that they’ve been taught.”
As for the team’s chances in 2022, Coach Blugh said he believes the team can succeed if they put in the work. “I think that there’s some good players, but of course whenever you’re playing a game, you got to go out and get it done. And the preparation during the week has to show up on film.”
The Queen’s Gaels officially open their 2022 campaign on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022, against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues.