Stefan Ptaszek shocked a lot of people a year-and-a-half ago when he suddenly ended a successful run as head coach of the McMaster Marauders to join the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as offensive co-ordinator.
Now he might be about to shock people again because he says he’d be open to returning to the school.
“Yes,” the 46-year-old says, “I would work there.”
In fact, he says he sent an email to director of athletics Glen Grunwald, assistant AD Mark Alfano and head football coach Greg Knox on Monday to re-introduce himself and let them know he could be available.
Before anyone sees this as him quitting on the Canadian Football League or firing the first shot in a coup d’etat of the current regime — neither are true — some context and background is required.
While Ptaszek says he’s enjoyed working as offensive co-ordinator of the Ticats and would certainly love to return, he’s also a realist. With everything that happened this year, there will be changes. Meaning when his deal expires on Dec. 31, he might be out of work. No hard feelings, no grudges. That’s football.
The trouble is, if he waits until then (or longer) for the Ticats’ brass to decide on his future all the scarce university coaching jobs that open after the season ends could be filled, leaving him without work.
“We have to feed our families and Jan. 1, we need gainful employment,” he says.
So he isn’t waiting idly for something to happen. The Dundas resident who’s won the Vanier Cup as a player, an offensive co-ordinator and a head coach has already reached out to a number of Ontario schools to let them know he’d be interested in chatting to see if there’s a role for him. He says he will touch base with others if need be.
One of those places loaded with good friends — despite his sudden departure, he left on excellent terms — is McMaster.
“I have no agenda when I’m reaching out to Mac,” he says. “I’m just saying ‘hi’ and letting them know I need a job.”
No sooner does he say this than he begins to explain a few things.
He insists he’s not gunning for head coach Greg Knox’s job. The two are good friends and together helped take the Marauders to three Vanier Cups. He believes he could absolutely work under Knox this time in a reversal of roles.
“I’m not trying to take anyone’s job,” Ptaszek says. “I don’t want to trigger any changes.”
In fact, he says he doesn’t need to be a head coach. If he felt the situation was right he’d be open to coming back in a hybrid position combining football and something else on campus. At Mac or elsewhere. He could see himself working on the offence while also holding a job in student affairs or advancement or even in some other area to build a resume toward an administrative career someday. Maybe even as a future director of athletics.
When he was head coach of the Marauders, he used his masters of finance degree to teach academic courses. So it’s not a massive stretch.
“It’s Coach Knox’s program,” Ptaszek says. “I’m not asking to change anything about Mac.”
With that willingness to accept something less than the top job, he will surely attract interest quickly somewhere. You’d think many OUA schools would be interested in grabbing a guy like him. Especially with his resume now-accentuated by what he’s learned over two years in the pros.
Including Mac, for whom a return could be terribly intriguing.
Under Knox — a guy the defensive players affectionately call a mad scientist — the D was terrific as it always is. Championship quality, for sure. Trouble was, the offence never really get rolling. Ptaszek has already shown he can operate that part of the game and now has broader experience thanks to his time in the pro ranks.
“There’s infinitely more tools in my tool box,” he says of what he gained by working with coaches Kent Austin and June Jones.
As the conversation with a writer ends, he tugs a Marauders toque onto his shaved head. Then as he stands to leave, the McMaster shorts he’s wearing emerge from behind the table.
His wardrobe is still heavy on the maroon. It seems like a piece of his heart might be, too.