Ottawa Gee-Gees player Francis Perron passes away after season opener

The University of Ottawa and the Canadian amateur football community have suffered a devastating loss, as Ottawa Sun reporter Tim Baines reports that Gee-Gees defensive lineman Francis Perron passed away suddenly shortly after his team’s 11-10 loss to the Toronto Varsity Blues on Saturday.

“Gee-Gees Football DL Francis Perron, who died Saturday, had just turned 25. Said head coach Marcel Bellefeuille: “Our hearts are broken. In losing Francis, we’ve lost an outstanding person, teammate, player and veteran leader that made us better in every way possible,” Baines tweeted.

Perron, a native of Sherbrooke, Quebec, was entering in his fifth year of eligibility for Ottawa. A mechanical engineering student, he was twice named a U Sports Academic All-Canadian for achieving an average of 80 percent or higher while competing in varsity sports.

Photo courtesy: Ottawa Gee-Gees

University president Jacques Frémont offered the following statement late Sunday:

“It is with a very heavy heart that I bring you some very sad news. Over the weekend, Francis Perron, one of our Mechanical Engineering students and a defensive lineman in his fifth season with Gee-Gees football, died shortly after a game between uOttawa and the University of Toronto. 

A bright, passionate, and caring person, Francis poured himself into his craft as a player and his academic pursuit of becoming an engineer. In the classroom, he was as big of a star as on the field, becoming a multiple-time U SPORTS Academic All-Canadian while studying Mechanical Engineering. 

Originally from Sherbrooke, Quebec., Francis first joined the Gee-Gees football team in 2017 after a stellar career at Cégep de Sherbrooke. Francis’ love for the game was present in his play, but even more so in the relationships he built with his teammates.

Francis’ memory will live on through a vast network of loving family, friends, and all those whose lives he touched.

On behalf of the University of Ottawa, I offer my condolences to his family, friends and loved ones. The thoughts of all members of our community are with you. I would also like to thank our colleagues at the University of Toronto for their steadfast support during this tragic event. 

I know how deeply this loss affects the student’s teammates, Gee-Gees staff and all members of the Gee-Gees community, as well as members of the Faculty of Engineering. Let me just say to you: Our thoughts are with you in your grief, which we share. Rest assured you have our compassion, solidarity and support. We have mobilized our support services and you can count on ongoing assistance over the coming days and weeks. 

If you have been touched by this loss in any way — whether you are a student, professor or employee — I encourage you to seek help if you are feeling overwhelmed or need emotional support.

We will hold a memorial ceremony in the coming weeks. While we do not yet have the details, we will keep you informed, while respecting the family’s wishes.”

No cause of death has been provided at this time, but director of varsity athletics Sue Hylland appeared to indicate in a statement to Baines that the tragic event occurred before the Gee-Gees returned to Ottawa.

“We are devastated by the tragic news of Francis’ passing. Francis exemplified everything it means to be a Gee-Gees student-athlete and representative of our sports community at uOttawa. We have ensured that our football program, as well as all Gee-Gees athletes and staff, have support resources available to them throughout this difficult time,” she said.

“We are very grateful for the therapy staff, first responders, nurses, doctors, and everyone on-site at the University of Toronto that did absolutely everything they could to help Francis. Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with Francis’ loved ones, teammates and everyone he touched.”

OUA president and CEO Gord Grace also released a statement, saying : “This is a terrible tragedy that has the entire OUA community mourning. Our thoughts and condolences go out to Francis’ family and friends, the Ottawa Gee-Gees, and the entire university community during this incredibly difficult time.”

Over his first three seasons with the team, Perron played in 22 games and recorded 45 total tackles, six tackles for loss and four sacks. His career highlight came in Ottawa’s 2019 victory over Carleton in the annual Panda game, where he recovered a fumble for a touchdown in front of a crowd of 24,600 in TD Place.

Due to the COVID pandemic and the cancellation of the U Sports season, Saturday marked the Gee-Gees first game since 2019. Perron recorded one tackle and passed away later that evening.

3DownNation wishes to offer their sincerest condolences to Perron’s family, friends and teammates in this difficult time.

This article will be updated as new information becomes available.

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