This article first appeared in the July 2010 edition of Main Street and is reprinted here with permission of the editors. Drop by www.mainstreetweeknews.com to have a look at a great community newspaper.
As football fans, many of us focus our attention on the quarterback or the running back, but the heart and soul of any offence is the offensive line. For 13 seasons, one of the anchors on the CFL’s most potent offence was centre, Bryan Chiu, of the Montreal Alouettes. A seven-time CFL All-Star and two-time Grey Cup champion, Chiu recently retired from the game he loves, entering the next phase of his life and becoming the anchor of another winning team - his family.
“My family will always be priority #1. They are the reason why I finally decided to retire,” Chiu told Main Street in a recent interview. “Over my 13 seasons with the Alouettes I have had nine surgeries. At the end of the day, I decided it was time to stop thinking of myself and to put my family first. I want to remain relatively healthy for the sake of my children. All I want for them is to have a dad that will run and play with them. I am also going to have my first summer off in over 20 years. It is going to be so much fun to spend quality time with my wife and kids without always complaining about being sore or injured.”
While Chiu is not taking the field with the Alouettes this season, he has not walked away from the game completely. A new challenge awaits him at Concordia University, where he will patrol the sidelines as their new offensive line coach and assistant offensive coordinator. It is an opportunity to pass on the vast amount of knowledge he learnt during his stellar career.
“I am very excited to have the opportunity to coach at Concordia. I not only get to stay involved in football, but I get to interact with student athletes and pass on all my knowledge of the game to these young men,” said Chiu. “Football has grown incredibly in the province of Quebec over the last decade and it is both an honour and privilege to be associated with Concordia University.”
“I have always believed that it is important to give back, and this is a perfect opportunity for me to help these football players be the best athletes possible and hopefully get a chance to play at the next level. I will stress the importance of getting their degree because the reality is that not all of them will be professional football players but they can all be university graduates if they put in the effort. An education is something that is yours forever and no one can take that away from you.”
Since their return to Montreal, the Alouettes have been one of the elite teams each year in the league. However, keeping an offence firing on all cylinders, having a shutdown defence, and avoiding serious injuries is no easy task during the lengthy CFL season; a Grey Cup victory is never a sure thing.
“Winning a Grey Cup is an amazing accomplishment. I have been fortunate enough to win two. I feel that they were each special in their own way. In 2002, it was the first time the Als had won in over 25 years and to see the excitement of our fans during the parade is something I will cherish forever.”
“In 2009, it felt different because it was our seventh Grey Cup appearance and we had lost five other times so it was a long time coming,” confided Chiu. “It made it even more special because of the dramatic 4th quarter comeback and the 'too many men' penalty on the Riders, which gave us a second chance. It felt like the whole stadium was cheering for the Riders, it felt like it was us against the world. The best thing about winning two Grey Cups is that I can give a Grey Cup ring to each of my children.”
For the casual sports fan, there is a lot of activity on the football field and it can be difficult to keep track of all the action. The offensive line is the key to on-field success for any team. What are the responsibilities of the centre and the O-line - let’s ask the expert.
“Playing centre definitely comes with a lot of responsibility,” Chiu explained. “Not only do you have to snap the ball to the QB, you also have to assess the defence and make all the appropriate calls to tell the rest of the O-line what to do. In essence, being the centre is like being the QB of the O-line; you must know everybody’s jobs.”
A very special thank you to Bryan for spending time with Main Street; an All-Star on the field, there is no doubt he will continue to be an All-Star off the field. Thanks for the memories and helping to bring two Grey Cups home to Montreal! Have a great sport day everyone.