In a perfect world, Sammy Okpro would have been in Montreal this past weekend when homecoming festivities took place.
The Montreal-native and former Stinger defensive back would have been on Molson Stadium’s field, returning home in the visiting Edmonton Eskimos’ green and gold for a homecoming of his own.
But, the world isn’t perfect and Okpro was on the practice squad. He wasn’t dressed for the game against the Alouettes. It is but one adjustment the three-time Canadian Interuniversity Sport all-Canadian has had to deal with after being drafted in the third round of last year’s Canadian Football League draft.
“The transition from being a star to being on the practice squad is a very humbling experience,” Okpro said. “Watching the veterans from the sidelines, wondering what I would be doing on the field and learning from the sidelines is frustrating at times. But you have to know your role and if it happens that I get to play I’ll show them what I could do,” he said.
He remembers draft day and the emotions he went through.
“It was terrible,” he said. “It was really stressful because I didn’t know if I was going to stay in Montreal or where I was going to be,” he said.
The draft was only the first step in his introduction to professional football.
“It was a big adjustment,” he said. “The biggest difference is speed. Everything happens a lot quicker.”
“Game planning and practice is also so important. You have to learn how to practice,” he said. “Offences can go up and down the field at all times. It’s amazing how many close games I’ve been in already. I’m not used to that. [Two weeks ago] against Hamilton, after everything that the organization has been through we still were only five points away from losing.”
Okpro looks very fondly at his time in the maroon and gold.
“I appreciate it a lot more,” he said. “I’ll remember playing with long-time friends for four years. When you could do that at a high level like this, you have to enjoy it.”
“The CFL is a lot more serious and there’s obviously the business aspect of it. At Concordia it was great to be around your friends and play,” he said.
Okpro is very quick to pick out one particular moment that sticks out over his four-year career. On Oct. 20, 2006 in a game against the St. Mary’s Huskies, Okpro intercepted a Erik Glavic pass in the sixth overtime to stop their possession. That led to a 33-yard field goal by Warren Kean to clinch the victory. That win also clinched a home playoff game. The Stingers won that playoff game, but fell short against the Laval Rouge et Or.
Concordia never beat Laval over Okpro’s career. Okpro says he still talks to a lot of his former teammates who are still with the Stingers.
“I’m rooming with a player from Laval, which is kind of ironic,” Okpro said. “Against them it was always a setback. We had some really good teams, but couldn’t beat them,” he continued.
“It’s frustrating but you have to move on.”
Stingers announce Hall of Famers
To kickoff homecoming, the Stingers announced their annual inductees to the Concordia sports hall of fame. Two athletes, two builders and two teams will enter the hall, which takes into account players from Loyola College and Sir George Williams University as well as Concordia.
Frances Williams was one of the first women at Sir George Williams University to earn great respect for her accomplishments. Over her four years she took intramural skiing and badminton championships, but was best known as a basketball player. She won the Col. E. Gill Trophy presented annually to the university’s top athlete in 1955.
Dave Dies was one of Sir George Williams University’s first great men’s hockey stars. He was awarded the Col. E. Gill Trophy in 1964 and was also the Georgians’ first ever all-Canadian hockey player.
Tom Lane and Carl Ohlson were instrumental leaders in bringing back the varsity football team to Loyola two years after it was put on hiatus in 1956. They submitted a report about feasible options to bring back the team that was ultimately approved.
“Who knows if Concordia would have a football team today if it wasn’t for their contributions,” said a Concordia University athletics spokesperson.
Concordia also announced the induction of two teams from the 1973-74 season. The Loyola Tommies women’s hockey team was 6-0 in their regular season and outscored opponents 66-0. They ultimately won the Quebec championship with a win over McGill.
The Sir George Williams men’s basketball team was 31-10 in games against teams from both Canada and American universities and was the first SGW team to be ranked in the country’s top-10, entering the list at No. 8.