Canadian Football League

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Former Canadian Football League player goes back to his roots

Home is where the heart is and no matter how far Jason Congdon has travelled, a part of his heart has always remained in St. Thomas.
To be more precise, with Arthur Voaden secondary school. Congdon's spawn from his love affair with the school has been a rebirth in the school's once dominant football program, as well as a renewal between the school and its alumnus.
Congdon played three years with the Western Mustangs, finishing in 2001. He was a member of the Canadian Football League Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Montreal Alouettes and Hamilton Ticats. But most importantly he graduated from Voaden in 1994.
Congdon left the pro ranks in 2005 and is now earning his teaching degree at D'Youville College in Buffalo.
He's on a student placement and will be for another few weeks before starting a seven-week gig at Laurier secondary school in London.
This adventure began last year when Congdon stepped in as the team's volunteer coach.
"He kick-started everything," Voaden principal Jim Robertson said. "Years ago, we were a larger school and a football powerhouse. As enrolment went down, so did the size of the team and how competitive we were. We had one team, a mix of junior and senior players. Our football equipment was dated.
"Jason got together with some people he knew in the community and organized a sports reunion dinner. We thought about 200 people would show up. He filled the place with around 500. It raised a phenomenal amount of money for football equipment but it also raised the motivation and the awareness for the program."
The dinner raised $8,500 and was a launching pad for renewing interest in Viking football with alumni, potential players and the community.
The Vikings now have a junior and senior football team, both coached by Congdon. The senior team won their first game of the season Thursday, 14-7 over the Tillsonburg Gemini.
"Our No. 1 priority with the dinner was to reintroduce people to the athletics program and the school," Congdon said. "There is a rich history of success at the school but like everything there are low points. For about seven years, we've been in a valley.
"We wanted people to know we were serious about the program. The No. 1 thing in getting programs turned around, is for people to know whatever they donate is going to a good cause. If they donate money, time, their kids, they need to know we're going to do a good job with it."
That message is getting out. Some 70 players came out to play, many of them never having played before. Congdon's was ready to teach them.
"It's a long road back but the number of kids who have quit is so incredibly small, it's encouraging. We must be doing something right," Congdon said.
Congdon, 31, says he's always had a "soft spot" for Arthur Voaden. Even during his pro playing days, he would find his way back to St. Thomas in the off season, hanging out and playing hockey with teachers from Voaden.
"Voaden did some wonderful things for me and I hope I can do some of the same things for the kids going to school here," he said.
Congdon is selling more than football. He's selling the values that make kids better players and better citizens.


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