Shaping football's future: McGough raising money for food bank with D-line camp
Connor McGough has been there before.
Not just in the grander sense of climbing football’s ranks en route to a professional career in the CFL – McGough knows what it’s like to be a wide-eyed student looking up to a local legend.
And when the 25-year-old Calgary Stampeders defensive end – and former Crescent Heights Viking – looks out over a group of roughly 40 defensive linemen in the charity camp he set up for Nov. 27-29 at the Cypress Centre Fieldhouse, he’ll be aiming to guide them down a similar path.
“I was once in their shoes, looking up to Dan Federkeil, Aaron Crawford and Nathan Coehoorn,” McGough said in a phone call with the News. “I just want to be able to use some of the knowledge I’ve gained through being a member of the University of Calgary Dinos, as well as my time in Hamilton (with the Ticats), my opportunity of going to New York Giants minicamp, and working with some of the Calgary coaches this off-season.
“I think a lot of it is just being able to relay some of that information to the youth. I know a lot of them are capable of understanding the terminology and logistics in football, and I want to be able to let them know about that at a younger age so they can develop a lot faster and hopefully get more opportunities outside of high school.”
McGough – who signed with the Calgary Stampeders as a free agent in February before having the season called off due to COVID – spent the past few months coaching with the Vikings, and decided to extend that effort to all of Medicine Hat’s young defensive linemen with a special camp aimed at growing the game in the Gas City while helping out the local food bank.
“To be able to give back and be in the other shoes of being a pro athlete now, and coaching the Crescent Heights High School Vikings, it’s pretty special,” he said. “I’ve worked with the food bank in the past. I think it was two years ago, it was me and Aaron Crawford who did kind of a Q&A at Crescent Heights High School and signed some autographs with donations going to the food bank. So, with COVID-19 and some people maybe needing more assistance this year, I thought it was most appropriate to choose them as the charity.”
During his time working with the Vikings, McGough says he saw no shortage of potential across the city, and he hopes to tap into that at the Cypress Centre in a few weeks.
“I got to work with their defensive linemen, and just from coaching them and seeing that they were able to pick up what I was coaching, and how responsive they were and how much they appreciated it,” he said. “For them to be intrigued by what I’m saying, it’s pretty rewarding, especially when you see it pay off on the field.”
And McGough got the chance to see just that earlier this season when his Vikings finally slayed the dragon with a milestone 21-8 victory over six-time reigning Rangeland Football Conference champion Medicine Hat High School on Oct. 24.
“It was great to be a part of that,” he said. “Without the whole coaching staff in total and the team buying in, it wouldn’t have been possible. It was a pleasure just to be part of the ride and to be able to contribute any way I was able to do. Just hats off to the players, they came in day after day with a positive attitude and worked hard. It couldn’t have been easy for them to come in – unmotivated due to COVID-19 – and do the whole training camp then get ready to play some games. They came in with a professional mindset, same with the coaching staff. It’s all a credit to the players and the coaches.”
McGough added the camp will also feature a number of local coaches, as well as trainers from Temple Fitness and Yoga You4ia and even some input from the CJFL’s Calgary Colts.
“I just received word that a coach or maybe multiple coaches from the Calgary Colts will be attending the camp,” he said. “Whether they’re helping or observing, it’s a great opportunity for Medicine Hat to get some exposure from the next level.”
The camp will feature three two-hour sessions over as many days – from 5-7 p.m. on the Friday, and 9-11 a.m. over the weekend. Interested players can obtain a registration code from their respective football coaches, while anyone looking to donate to the cause can do so at http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/d-line-charity-high-school-camp-hosted-by-connor-mcgough-tickets-128049083255.
The Stampeders Foundation will match money raised up to $5,000. It’s one of many factors that makes Calgary seem like a perfect fit, says McGough.
“One thing I noticed immediately from signing is that I was wanted,” he said. “They’re excited for me. I was able to, immediately from signing, work with the coaches, get the playbook and do some training with the coaches around being a defensive player. I truly believe there’s an opportunity there, but that opportunity is up to me to take advantage of. I’m excited about the opportunity that’s in front of me with the Stampeders. It’s a place where I truly feel like it’s home and I’m excited to help the team in any fashion and grow with the organization.”
McGough added he hopes to expand the camp in the future to include more positions, as well as holding sessions outdoors in the spring.
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