In football, arguably more so than any other sport, it is the head coach that drives the team.
The players execute, but the coach implements.
Whether it’s recruiting, planning, motivating, adjusting, or simply, providing the foundation for success, more is demanded of head football coaches than any other boss in any other sport.
Which is what makes Kyle Walters’ decision to move from Gryphons head coach to special teams coordinator for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL that much more significant.
Let’s face it; from a combined playing and coaching perspective, arguably no individual has had a greater impact on Gryphons football in the past 15-plus years than Walters.
First, as a player, he helped lead the team to a pair of Yates Cup victories in 1992 and 1996, and then, as head coach, Walters took the team back to the provincial championships in 2007, only to eventually bow out to the Western Mustangs after a hard-fought playoff run, including a miraculous comeback against Laurier in the conference semi-finals.
For years now, Kyle Walters was one of the faces of Gryphons football.
Year after year, he helped bring in some of the province’s most talented high school players, stocking the Gryphons’ previously bare cupboard with a plethora of talent, enabling the program to thrive for years to come.
Walters instilled a winning attitude among his players, supporting their every move and helping them grow into outstanding athletes and individuals.
He loved his players, coaches and the atmosphere in the Canadian university game and openly admitted that he could have seen himself retire as a Gryphon.
But like anybody else with a passion for the game and an ambition to move up, opportunities at the next – in this case, professional – level can be oh, so inviting.
And when the Bombers came calling, Walters couldn’t help but entertain their offer for him to uproot and take charge of their special teams unit.
The announcement of Walters’ decision caught many off-guard. Players were surprised and I’m sure potential recruits were startled, having learned that the man who had spent so much time soliciting their services would no longer be available to lead them onto the field.
But Kyle Walters should not take any blame from this situation. He, like anybody else, is pursuing his dreams.
The most obvious comparison to draw from this story is players in the CFL taking advantage of opportunities to play in the National Football League.
Every single year, CFL players are faced with the difficult decision of abandoning their Canadian roots for greener pastures south of the border. When you dedicate so much of your life to a single venture, you can’t help but have your interest peaked when the next great challenge presents itself.
Doug Flutie ate, slept and breathed Canadian football for nearly a decade, but it would be hard to blame him for listening when the Buffalo Bills inquired about his services back in 1998.
Likewise, Walters, the ultimate loyal Gryphon, should not be vilified for his decision, but rather, lauded for his ambition and thanked for his commitment to Gryphons athletics.
Everyone in this community wishes him nothing but luck and success in the next chapter in the life for one of football’s true class acts.