The Chilliwack Huskers have hired a new head coach.
The B.C. Football Conference team officially inked Tyson St. James late last week, filling the void left by the resignation of former bench boss Luke Acheson.
St. James comes into the job with an impressive resume.
Born in Nanaimo, he played his community football in Cloverdale/Langley from 1984 to 1992, and was part of a provincial championship team in Westside in 1993.
St. James played three years of BCFC football with the Abbotsford Air Force and was named a provincial all-star in his final season.
He went on to a three year stint with the University of British Columbia, helping the Thunderbirds to a Vanier Cup national championship in 1997. He was the winner of the JP Metras award in 1999 as the nation’s top collegiate lineman and earned all-Canadian status in 1998 and 1999.
St. James was the first overall pick in the 2000 Canadian Football League draft, selected by Saskatchewan.
From 2000-02 he was a defensive end and special teams player for the Roughriders.
St. James occupied the same roles for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2003 and 2004.
“It (playing at various levels) has given me a lot of different perspectives and experiences playing a lot of different styles of football,” the new coach said. “I played for a lot of different coaches and I’ve learned something from each of them on how to approach the game.”
On the coaching side, St. James led the AAA Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers to the second round of the playoffs in 2009 and was the defensive line assistant for the Simon Fraser University Clansmen during their second NCAA season.
His coaching expertise lies on the defensive and special teams side of the ball.
But St. James plans on being involved in all facets of the operation, and said he has an offensive philosophy he hopes to implement.
“The offences I’ve faced in the past, there were ones I liked and ones I haven’t,” he said. “The one thing I know is that I don’t believe in just passing the ball all the time. I believe in involving the run to keep defences honest and that’s going to be a big part of my recruiting, getting the players to fit that philosophy.”
His background indicates St. James should be a good fit to resurrect the moribund Husker franchise.
But the team he inherits is coming off back-to-back winless seasons and he has half an offseason to recruit for 2012.
If he’s after a challenge, he’s found it.
“It is a significant challenge, but I believe that challenges make you grow as a person and that is important to me,” St. James said. “As far as the back-to-back 0-10 seasons go, I look at that as the past, and we’re heading into the future.”
St. James has already started the evaluation process, trying to figure out what he has and what he needs.
Putting together a coaching staff is priority number one.
The team definitely needs a new offensive coordinator, with Jon Klyne jumping to the Langley Rams. St. James hopes to fill any coaching vacancies with local talent, the first step in forging new ties with the community.
St. James must also put together a roster on short notice.
His BCFC rivals have a significant head start on recruiting, and he’ll have to work double-time to catch up.
“It’s just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, and doing what I can do every day,” he said. “That’s all I can do. For the players I’ll be calling, I hope they see it as an opportunity for them to learn the game and develop themselves. Some of them want to work and play football, and that’s great. Some of them want to play beyond junior football at the next level. I’m giving them an opportunity to accomplish their goals.”
This is technically St. James’ second kick at the BCFC coaching can.
The 36-year-old was briefly the head coach of the Langley Rams, hired in the fall of 2010. By March of 2011 St. James had left due to ‘personal reasons,’ replaced by former Huskers defensive coordinator Jeff Alamolhoda.
“That was a situation where I decided it was in my best interests to take a job coaching for Dave Johnson at SFU,” St. James said, elaborating on the ‘personal reasons,’ “Anytime you do something, you learn something, and the SFU experience was valuable. But I decided I wanted to be a head coach again, and the phone rang.”
Though everything in recent history suggests otherwise, St. James believes the Huskers program can succeed and he’s the one who can guide it in the right direction.
“From what I see, everyone involved with this team has their hearts in the right place and they want to build something here,” he said. “That excites me. I’m looking forward to working with a blank slate and getting this team turned around.”