University of Toronto football back in the national spotlight

Photo courtesy: Varsity Blues Athletics

If you know me or follow me on social media then you likely already know this, but I am a proud graduate of the University of Toronto.

I went to U of T from 2005 to 2011, graduating with HBA degrees in political science and history. I routinely make the claim that the school is the best in the country and I am very proud of having attended such a fine institution. My years at U of T were great and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

What wasn’t great while I was there was the football team.

The Varsity Blues were, quite frankly, a laughing stock for my entire university career. In my time at the St. George campus, the football team won a total of six games and went winless three times. They lost a USports record 49 consecutive games and never finished higher than seventh in the OUA.

Being proud of where you went to school should be easy, but having a putrid football team can make it tough sometimes.

It looks like those tough times are over, however, as the University of Toronto Varsity Blues — my University of Toronto Varsity Blues — have won their last two games and are currently the No. 10 ranked team in all of Canada.

U of T in the top 10?

That U of T?

How did this happen?

A number of factors have contributed to the team’s revival, but the two biggest were the hiring of long-time CFL coach Greg Marshall and the emergence of quarterback Clay Sequeira.

Marshall’s bona fides speak for themselves, and don’t listen to Riders fans who dislike Marshall after his disastrously short tenure as their head coach. Marshall was a spectacular defensive coordinator during his time in the CFL — especially during stints in Winnipeg and Hamilton — and has brought that experience with him to Bloor and St. George.

But a coach is only as good as his players and Marshall has a great one in Sequeira.

I won’t speak on Sequeira’s pro prospects — I’ll leave that to way more knowledgable people than I — but having watched all three U of T games so far this year, I can say that Sequeira is a dynamic playmaker and one of the most exciting players in Canadian university sports right now.

In U of T’s season-opening loss to Waterloo, Sequeira threw for 471 yards and four touchdowns. It showed that this Varsity Blues team might not be the squad you are used to and that two-time Hec Crighton winner Tommy Denison has made this offence fun to watch.

The next two weeks is when things started to pick up, as Sequeira guided the Blues to two straight wins. First came a 54-26 thrashing of the Windsor Lancers followed by a 38-34 road victory over Wilfrid Laurier. Sequeira was excellent in the pair of contests, throwing for a combined 786 yards and 10 — yes 10 — touchdowns.

On the year, Sequeira has passed for 1,257 yards, 14 touchdowns and just one interception. He has also added 192 yards on the ground, proving he is a dual-threat playmaker and — if I may be so bold — an early Hec Crighton candidate. At the very least, Sequeira has made U of T football a must-watch for USports fans across the country.

It has been a fun ride these first few weeks of the OUA season and whether this lasts all the way until the playoffs or not, it’s just nice to have U of T football back in the national spotlight once again (for the right reasons, anyway).

As a student, I didn’t have much to cheer for when it came to my football team. I was happy if they could beat York and didn’t lose by 50-plus points against OUA heavyweights like Ottawa and McMaster.

But as a proud alum who still wears the same U of T t-shirt he bought in first year, it has been great watching the team become relevant once again. U of T football has laid dormant for a very long time, it looks like the school that has won 25 Yates Cups, two Vanier Cups and four Grey Cups is back up off the mat.

Whether you #BleedBlue like I do or not, you have to admit that it is pretty cool to see the University of Toronto excelling on the football field.

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.