It’s the start of a new era. On Tuesday, Feb. 11, Concordia’s Department of Recreation and Athletics held a press conference and appointed Mickey Donovan as the new head coach of the Stingers football team.
“This place is home. And to come back and give back to our team, our school, it means a lot,” said Donovan.
Donovan, 33, is a former all-Canadian linebacker who dominated the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) for the Stingers from 2002-2004, after which, he played for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Canadian Football League. Unfortunately in his first year, in 2005, he blew out his knee and had to step away from the game as a player. When the Tiger-Cats decided to keep Donovan on the roster, that’s when he turned to coaching. Donovan thought if he was going to be a part of a team, he was going to help out any way that he could.
“I decided to wake up every morning and be at the office at 6 a.m. and go in and help out in any way possible,” said Donovan. “Whatever it was, I was helping out.”
Since then, it has been a long road back to Concordia for the new Stingers coach. Donovan got his first real taste of coaching when he interned as a coach for the University of New Hampshire (UNH) in 2006. It was there that he fell in love with the idea of coaching and really learnt the ins-and-outs of a program. A part of that coaching staff was current Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. It was an eye-opening experience for Donovan as he learnt what it meant to lead a team from the sidelines.
For the next four years, from 2007-2011, Donovan coached at the University of Western Ontario. It was his first full-time job, working as a special teams and defensive coach.
“You learn that it’s a tight ship and the head guy is the man,” said Donovan. “You got to see how [the coaches] worked and what it meant to them. Those are the things I took away from UNH and Western.”
During his stints at UNH and Western, Donovan appreciated what it meant for a team to become a family — a philosophy that defines him as a coach and something that he wants to bring to Concordia.
Donovan wants to create a family atmosphere when players walk into the locker room, gym or practice field. He wants for them to feel as if they are coming home to a family.
“I want these kids to know that we are all here together as a football team, but more than that, as an athletic department and a university,” said Donovan. “That’s what Concordia is all about.”
Being a New Hampshire native, Donovan found a home when he first came to Concordia as a player. As he comes back to the place where his football career first took off, it’s not surprising that Donovan’s number one goal is to make this team a family. Donovan’s goal extends beyond the constraints of a football field. He wants to make the student-athletes realize that, when they pull on that maroon and gold jersey, it means that they are representing Concordia as a whole, as a family.
“My biggest thing is that I want them to believe and trust in their teammates and coaches,” said Donovan.
The qualities that Donovan will look for in a player is discipline, commitment and passion, all characteristics he hopes his players will use as tools to excel long after their playing days are over.
“Being together and by exceeding in life, that is going to make us win,” said Donovan. “We don’t just win on the football field. We win at graduation day, we win in the classrooms too.”
Donovan takes over from former head coach Gerry McGrath, who was the head coach for the past 14 years and coached Donovan during his playing days. As soon as Donovan heard that McGrath was stepping down, he knew that this was his chance to return to Concordia.
“I wanted to come for this job, this was something that I always talked about and always wanted and it’s something special to me,” said Donovan. “I felt that it would be pretty special to come take over from my coach, my mentor.”
Having been the defensive coordinator and assistant coach for the McGill Redmen since 2011, this will be Donovan’s first job as a head coach. Although it is a much bigger role than Donovan has ever had, he is excited and proud to call himself a Stinger once again.
“For me, it can’t get any better. I feel like I’ve scored the game winning touchdown in the Grey Cup.”