By Mike Archer – Abbotsford Today Feb 27, 2011
Abbotsford Today sat down with W.J.Mouat Varsity Football Coach Denis Kelly to talk a about his days at Mouat, his life before Mouat and the people and players from the school.
David Murray: Thank you for meeting with me this afternoon Denis to do this interview for the “Today” online paper.
Denis Kelly: I am glad to see you again David! (Denis coached me in basketball at Britannia High School in Vancouver .)
DM: Denis where were you born and raised?
DK: I was born in Vancouver in 1950. I lived in Vancouver an attended Vancouver College from grade 4 until grade 12.
DM: What other sports did you play at Vancouver College besides football?
DK: I played basketball and ran track, 880 yards was my specialty.
DM: At Vancouver College you accomplished something not many athletes have been able to do?
DK: Yes my football team in 1967 tied Britannia High School for the BC Championship Football title and my Senior basketball team defeated David Thompson to win the BC Championship in basketball.
DM: Who were some of your football and basketball teammates at VC?
DK: In basketball John Mills who played at UBC, John Beaton who played in the CFL for over a decade as well as football star Paul Giroday who went to College at Cal-Berkeley and then played a long career for the B.C. Lions.
DM: You went on to play at S.F.U.?
DK: Yes , we had some strong teams on the hill at that time.
DM: You were drafted by what team in the CFL?
DK: I was drafted by the Calgary Stampeders in 1973. I think it was in the 6th round.
DM: Canadian quarterback? Hmmm. Russ Jackson, Don Getty,Peter Ohler, Wayne Holm were other Canadian’s that played at the quarterback position. What can you tell me about your experience in Calgary?
DK: Well, when I was there the coach was Jim Duncan. Calgary was on a bit of a decline although they had a lot of good quarterbacks in camp. I of course was the only Canadian trying out for that position. Jerry Keeling from Tulsa University was the starter. He had been there for a decade. Jim Lindsay was his back up from Abilene Christian, Gary Danielson from Purdue who wound up starting for the Detroit Lions in the NFL was cut, along side myself and another NFL quarterback Bill Troup (Carolina Eastern) who started for the Baltimore Colts. So I was in a tough spot for a Canadian Left-Handed throwing quarterback ( not many left handed quarterbacks were around back then)
DM: Did you come back home to B.C.?
DK: Yes, I weighed my options and I thought it would be best to try and become a teacher-coach! I went to U.B.C. And in 1974, while as a student teacher, I got my first coaching job , coaching you and the Britannia Bruins Senior Boys basketball team! I remember the group well, not much height, almost all Chinese and a skinny grade 10 kid named Tony Bell, who became our best player by the end of the year.
DM: When did you get your first full-time teaching position?
DK: It was in 1975 at VC. I coached the JV’s for two years, I then moved to the Varisty from 1977-79.
DM: Did you coach college football?
DK: Yes, I coached at S.F.U. As an assistant coach to Rod Woodward 1979-1981.
DM: Jay Triano played football around that time did he not?
DK: Yes, we talked Jay , who was an accomplished basketball star into playing football for us. He actually was drafted in the CFL and the NBA (Utah Jazz) John Stockton’s rookie season.
DM: You moved over to arch rival Notre Dame high school , is that correct?
DK: Yes it was from 1982-1985. I coached with George Oswald and Bill Cole. Our big star of the team was Rob Morretto who went on to play for the B.C. Lions.
DM: So what made you decide to come out to Abbotsford and coach at W.J. Mouat?
DK: Principal Jim Latham and Vice-principal Tony deWit were instrumental in the establishment of the football program at W.J. Mouat Secondary School. They were looking for a way to keep their athletes from transferring to rival Abbotsford Senior Secondary. Rotary stadium had just built so they approached me about starting a football program at Mouat. Geoff Davies, Jim Mitchell, and Rob Comeau were also hired to assist me with the operation . Davies and Comeau coached the grade 8 team while myself and Mitchell handled the varsity.
DM: Your first year of actual operation was in 1987?
DK: Yes, the first year 1986 we just had some practice games, our first real game was against the Lynden High School JV’s. We won that game 14-12. Bob Kilian scored our first touchdown! We had twenty five boys on that first team. Our quarterback was Greg Byron, he is now the Athletic Director at Rick Hansen and is a cousin of a former teammate of mine at VC Greg Beaton.
DM: Who were some of the other notables on that first team Coach Kelly?
DK: Jake Friesen who played linebacker at UBC, Troy Hardwick who was a down-lineman at UBC as well. And defensive halfback Leigh King , another one of our players who starred for Coach Smith’s UBC Thunderbirds.
DM: What was your record your first year Coach?
DK: It was a respectable 5-5. We beat Port Moody and Carson Graham and even won the “Fog Bowl” against Holy Cross 8-7 at Rotary Stadium. This put us in the playoffs against a powerhouse Richmond “Colts” team. We lost that game 35-7 , but went on to learn from that experience. All the football teams in B.C at that time all played in the same division. No tiers AAA or AA.
DM: What was the turning point for the W.J.Mouat football program?
DK: The turning point came when coach Gary Naylor was added to the coaching staff (He is still here) He took on the assignment as our defensive coordinator. He was a head coach at the University of Manitoba so he brought a wealth of experience to our program. We won our first provincial championship that season!
DM: Who were the stars of that 1992 Championship team Coach “K”
DK: Darren Rowell was the star of our team, he was our quarterback, he went on to play at Montana and was Dave Dickenson’s (Former Stampeder and Lion great) back up. He actually got a chance to play when Montana played Marshall in the DIV 1 AA USA college football championship game. Superstar Randy Moss of the Minnesota Vikings was a wide receiver for Marshall that season.
Other players were Andrew Hall , he played tight end and linebacker. Ryan Rochon tight end, Chris Beauregard was a star running back, as well as Narv Bemara a standout wide receiver. Coach Naylor, Bob Lee and David Harms were with me that year as we downed Vancouver College 27-12 in the final.
DM: You won a couple of the Provincial football titles at Mouat?
DK: Yes , 2002 and 2005.
DM: Steve Goosen was your quarterback on that 2002 team ?
DK: Yes , Steve was a beauty, he had an offer to go to an IVY league school. Brown University. Tyler Hamade was a great wide receiver , he played at UBC, as well we had WR Darren Bell, TE Brandon Spletzer, and TE-LB Jeff Swann. We went on to beat Van College 52-27 in the final game. My nephew Jamie Bull was on the losing Vancouver College side. He is a Harvard Law Grad. I never let him live this down. “I guess I should be nicer. He may help look after me when I get older” quipped Kelly.
DM: Your 2005 championship team?
DK: Yes, that was a great team for sure. Our quarterback was Austin Teer who played at Greenville College in Illinois. Matt Chapedelaine was our star wide-out (his dad is a coach for the B.C. Lions Jacques Chapedelaine), His younger brother Justin Chapedelaine was on the team. Bobby Rau was MVP in BC that year and was a great running back. Our fullback that year was John (Bruiser) Smeysters. His grandfather was our equipment manager for years. Cherry Brar was a fine linebacker on that team as well. We had a great coaching team assembled , Coach Naylor, Jeff Armstrong, Geoff Davies, Glenn Rau and Justin Alamade.
DM: Who was your best player you ever coached ?
DK: Without a doubt Boseko Lokombo , currently at the University of Oregon.
DM: Coach Kelly, you are a loved guy! I just mentioned that I was interviewing you today on facebook and I had just a ton of responses. You have made a great and lasting impression as a teacher and a coach on a lot of the kids in the community. In fact I had one fellow who is running for MP in (Kitchener -Waterloo )who played football for you at Mouat , making a point of saying hello to you!
DK: Yes, I remember Peter, his dad was involved with the program as well.
DM: Coach Kelly, you have done so much yourself as a player , given so much of your life to kids as a teacher and coach. Yet you are so humble! What “words of wisdom” would you like to say to our readers in closing today.
DK: When you love what your are doing. Your love will bring out the best in people. I have always been in it for THEM! (The Kids)