UBC Thunderbirds add former Saskatchewan QB Mason Nyhus, legendary CFL OL guru Dan Dorazio to coaching staff

Graphic: 3DownNation (Photo courtesy: U Sports | B.C. Lions)

The University of British Columbia has made a pair of coaching hires at opposite ends of their careers, adding former University of Saskatchewan quarterback Mason Nyhus and long-time CFL offensive line coach Dan Dorazio to their staff.

Nyhus completed his U Sports career this past season and defeated UBC in the Hardy Cup, leading the Huskies to a second consecutive appearance in the Vanier Cup. He threw for 9,649 yards, 66 touchdowns, and 27 interceptions over 51 career games and went his entire career without ever losing a game at home in Saskatoon.

The six-foot-two, 215-pound passer was named a Canada West all-star in back-to-back seasons and earned the conference’s Most Valuable Player award in 2022, becoming a finalist for the Hec Crighton Trophy. He was beaten out for the award by Laval University receiver Kevin Mital while settling for a second-team All-Canadian selection.

The Regina native went unselected in the 2022 CFL Draft but was added to the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ exclusive negotiation list late last year. He was offered a contract by the team but elected not to sign it, instead choosing to pursue a career in education. He is now working at David Thompson Secondary School in Vancouver and will serve as an offensive assistant with the Thunderbirds, with a primary focus on working with the quarterbacks.

“He’s a young man with an outstanding pedigree and outstanding knowledge of the game. Most guys Mason’s age, if they are given roles with the team, are graduate assistants. He’s much more than that,” UBC head coach Blake Nill said in an interview with 3DownNation.

“He brings incredible energy, incredible insight. The kids look up to him already. Guys that played against him literally four months ago are excited to have him in the program.”

By contrast, the 71-year-old Dorazio has been coaching for five decades, including 21 years in the CFL. He last coached professionally for the Toronto Argonauts in 2019 but is best known for his role as the B.C. Lions’ offensive line coach from 2003 to 2014 and again from 2016 to 2018. That tenure was interrupted by a one-year stint with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2015.

Since beginning his career with the Calgary Stampeders in 1998, Dorazio has won four Grey Cups and produced four Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman award winners. Prior to the CFL, Dorazio spent 26 years coaching in the NCAA, including stops at Hawaii, Washington, Georgia Tech, and Maryland.

The legendary offensive line guru was originally supposed to coach with UBC during the 2020 season but had his contract voided by the COVID-19 pandemic. He jumped across town to Simon Fraser University, only to see their season cancelled as well shortly after. He has not coached in the two seasons since.

“He’s is an elite offensive line coach in North America and to have him sitting in Abbotsford in retirement just didn’t make sense,” Nill said. “We’re ecstatic to have him on staff. I think he’s gonna be a real difference-maker for us.”

Former CFL first-round pick Kirby Fabien, who served as offensive line coach last year, will remain on staff to assist Dorazio, who will get the chance to work with top pro prospects Theo Benedet and Giovanni Manu in their final collegiate season.

“He’s only been at the last two of our spring practices and we’re already noticing a difference. The kids are excited and they just seem to be more aware of what’s going on. I am very happy with that,” Nill said.

UBC finished third in the Canada West this past season with a 4-4 record before upsetting the University of Regina Rams in the first round of the playoffs, eventually losing in the conference title game. Both coaches are expected to stay with the program for multiple seasons.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.