Football pioneer blazing trail to CIS Bisons

The University of Manitoba Bisons will have ex-GW Graham football star Jake Creasey on the roster this fall.

Jake Creasey honed his pass catching skills with the GW Graham Grizzlies varsity squad. He’s taking his talents to Winnipeg next fall

Jake Creasey honed his pass catching skills with the GW Graham Grizzlies varsity squad. He’s taking his talents to Winnipeg next fall

Chilliwack native Jake Creasey will make history next year when he suits up for the Manitoba Bisons.

Creasey, a soon-to-be graduate of the GW Graham football program, will become the first Grizzly to secure a spot with a CIS squad.

“I didn’t really think about the whole pioneer thing until my dad said, ‘You know you’re the first one in GWG history,’” Creasey said. “It’s cool. It’s an honour. I’ll be known for that, which is pretty amazing.”

CIS schools started paying attention to Creasey before last season, after he made the 56-man roster of Team BC U-18.

He’d never seen a scout in his life until the third tryout at the Richmond Oval. Representatives from six schools were there, each making presentations.

“That was the first moment where I realized I might be able to get a scholarship and go somewhere,” he recalled. “I was speechless. I heard about these people like (ex-GWG basketball stars) Lucas Mannes and Chris Thompson getting scholarships, but until that day I never thought I could be in a group like that.”

The Carleton Ravens and the UBC Thunderbirds were two of the schools expressing interest, but Carleton, based in Ottawa, was never a candidate in Creasey’s mind.

UBC offered the close-to-home card, but at a price.

“I’d like to be part of this area still, but they were also a lot more expensive, like a couple thousand dollars more,” Creasey explained. “Manitoba was less money and their football program has all brand-new facilities. I didn’t see how I couldn’t go there.”

Creasey’s minor football coach, Mike Kelly, put in a good word for the Bisons, as did GWG teammate Brett Westad.

His brother, Nick, went to Winnipeg last fall.

Creasey played wideout for the Grizzlies last year as the school fielded a varsity (Grades 11-12) team for the first time.

His team went 2-5 in the tough AA Eastern conference, but Creasey stood out.

Not only was he the team’s most dynamic offensive player — he and Westad — but coach Laurie Smith saw him develop into a leader.

“He took ownership of a very new and often out-matched varsity group and consistently led by example on the field, in the weight room, in team meetings and film etc,” Smith noted. “In the captain voting by the players Jake was a unanimous choice and that does not happen often.”

Come the fall, Creasey will experience the transition from big fish/little pond to little fish/big pond.

He’ll be playing against men four or five years his senior, and worries a bit about the transition.

But he also embraces it.

“I love playing against older guys to get that extra little competition, and if I hadn’t gotten a scholarship I’d have probably chosen to play junior football,” he said. “I know it’ll be harder and I’ll have to get a lot stronger, that’s for sure. But this experience will make me a better football player and a better person.”

As he leaves the GWG football program, he hopes he’s leaving a legacy for the young pups to follow, one that starts with knowing the value of hard work.

“I want them to realize it’s possible, and if I could do it then they can to,” Creasey said. “I only played three years of football. Most of them will have five years on me by the time they graduate, and I hope they’re dedicated and grateful for the opportunity that they have.”

Coach Smith said he’ll be following Creasey closely this fall, and hopes the teenager is the first of many Grizzlies moving on to higher levels.

“We were very proud to have Jake lead the first ever GW Graham varsity team, and he will always be our first captain,” Smith said. “I am very proud of Jake and the hard work he put in to find opportunities at the next level and wish him well at Manitoba. There is no question I’m a huge Bisons fan now.”

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