2019 Wall of Champions - Western Mustangs Football

2019 Wall of Champions

Western Mustangs Football

John Urban

Yesterday afternoon family and friends gathered for a luncheon in the Labatt Lounge at TD Stadium to honour the 2019 Wall of Champions for the Western Mustangs football team.  In total four players (Doug Cook, Art Froese, Jim Budge and Chris Hessel), along with current Defensive Coordinator Paul Gleason as a Builder and the 1981 Yates Cup Championship winning team were all inducted.  Adding another chapter to the already rich history of the Western Mustangs football program in just the 16th year of the Wall of Champions.

Doug Cook – 1940-1947 – BA’ 1946 (Posthumously)      
The story of Doug Cook is that of a real-life action hero and someone who should have a movie made after them.  Coming to Western originally in 1940 touted as one of the top high school football players in the province, all intercollegiate sports though were suspended because of the war.  In May of 1942, he would make the decision to put aside his education to defend his country overseas.  Twice wounded seriously in action, he lost the full use of his left thumb while fighting and returned to Western in the fall of 1945.  Astonishingly he did not know he had shrapnel in his chest from an explosion in the war until undergoing X-Rays at Western in preparation for the football team.  In the 1945 season his team went 6-0, including a game against the arch rival Toronto Varsity Blues which saw over 2000 fans above seating capacity attend and unofficially claimed the Yates Cup.  As a result, he was named a SIFL All-Star, a 2nd team All-Eastern Canadian and received the George McCullough Award as team MVP while at the position of Center.  1946 marked the first full season since intercollegiate sports was suspended in 1939, now a true senior Doug helped captain another undefeated season and successful Yates Cup title defence.  He would eventually graduate Western in the spring of 1947 with a BA in Business, continuing to play football professionally in the CFL for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Toronto Argonauts.  “As Cook goes, so goes the Western line.  Big Doug is a team player, the type who lifts a team and with his great heart and his many tackles keeps them in the ball game,” stated the London Free Press in 1946 about the Mustangs star. 

Art Froese – 1963-1967 – BA’ 1967          
Enrolling at Western in 1963, Art Froese became one of the first freshman to crack the starting lineup, large in part thanks to his 92 yard, two touchdowns on only three carries performance in an exhibition game.  In 1964 in just his sophomore season he was fourth in the league in rushing with 348 total yards, averaging 6.2 yards per rush.  The following season he was the league leader in rushing with 445 total yards, plus grabbed the league scoring title with 61 points from his rushing touchdowns and placekicking.  That same year, the Mustangs went 5-1, finding themselves in the Yates Cup for the first time in five years.  As a result, Art was named an OQAA All-Star and received the George McCullough Award as team MVP.  Unfortunately, in the 1966 season Art suffered from a fractured leg, which cut his Mustangs career short, but not his football career as he was drafted by the Calgary Stampeders in the 2nd round of the 1967 draft.  After losing the 1968 Grey Cup with Calgary to the Ottawa Roughriders in a close 24-21 final, Art would return to Western and major in Geography.  “A tough bugger who was an inspiration to his teammates.  He loved football and as a result he was enthusiastic and committed to it,” said his Assistant Coach Jack Fairs about the player who wore #36. 

Jim Budge – 1970-1973 – BA’ 1974
Jim Budge turned down a US track scholarship to play football at Western when he enrolled at the school in 1970.  Starting every game as a freshman, while playing safety/punt-returner, he was named an OQAA All-Star his very first season playing.  In the 1971 season Jim played a crucial role in bringing the first ever College Bowl (modern day Vanier Cup) in the school’s history to Western.  He was an integral part of the defence which shutout the Ottawa Gee Gees 13-0 in the Yates Cup and was named MVP of the Atlantic Bowl by providing over 110 yards and a touchdown while punt returning.  In fact, it was Budge’s punt return in the College Bowl against the Alberta Golden Bears in the final minutes that would set up the winning field goal in the 15-14 championship victory.  Arguably his biggest contribution to the sport, may have come off the field.  Writing a book on safety for the Ontario Amateur Football Association, he discovered research which supported the use of mouth guards to help prevent concussions.  After taking this information to Coach Cosentino, it led to the Mustangs being one of the first football programs to use mouth guards for its players across the country.  By the time Jim had graduated in 1973, he had set Western’s all-time punt return record for a single season and career, on top of setting the Mustangs career interception record.  The Ottawa Roughriders of the CFL would draft him in 1973, he would have brief stints with the Toronto Argonauts and BC Lions before calling football quits to become a golf pro. 

Chris Hessel – 1998-2004 – Quarterback           
Enrolling at Western in 1998, as a backup Quarterback in his first year he helped the Mustangs to an undefeated Yates Cup Championship season, which ended in the Churchill Bowl.  After leaving the school for two years, he returned in 2001 season and took over as the starting Quarterback after just three regular season games.  The 2002 season Chris decided to write his name all over the record books: passing for 2806 yards (a new OUA record at the time), throwing 7 touchdowns in a game against the Windsor Lancers (OUA record/2nd most in CIS) and finishing the season with 21 touchdowns (Western record).  He was named an OUA 2nd team All-Star three consecutive seasons and was twice the recipient of the George McCullough Award as team MVP over his time at Western.  With a little help from a talented receiver named Andy Fantuz, Chris would finish his career with 8647 passing yards, over 3000 more yards thrown than any other Mustangs QB prior to him.  That stat at the time also placed him second all-time in passing in both the OUA and CIS.  His 62 career throwing touchdowns remains a Mustangs record today.  In 2005 Chris would play in the Arena Football League after signing with the Albany Conquest and would go on to play two seasons with various teams.  “His toughness and courage were a trademark of his play, a source of great inspiration to his teammates while earning him the highest respect from opponents,” said his Head Coach Larry Haylor. 

Paul Gleason – 1998-Present – BA’ 1985
Before joining the Mustangs staff in 1998, Paul Gleason had already won more City Football Championships than any other head coach in the London Conference’s history.  His first responsibilities at Western were being the Linebacker Coach, Special Teams Coordinator and Recruiting, in his first year the program had an undefeated Yates Cup championship season.  Promoted to Defensive Coordinator in 2003, by 2005 Western had the best defence in the province and second-best in the nation.  His ability to face adversity couldn’t have been clearer than in the 2007 season, as the Mustangs started the year 0-4.  The defence would not surrender another touchdown during the regular season and the team would capture another Yates Cup championship.  He was the mastermind behind the best defence to ever take the field in 2017, which resulted in a perfect 12-0 season and the first Vanier Cup in 23 years for Western.  He has won the OUA’s Gino Fracas Volunteer-Assistant Coach of the Year in 2013 and 2017, won 7 Yates Cups, 2 Mitchell Bowls, a Uteck Bowl and one National Championship.  He has coached 22 defensive All-Canadians, three players who were named OUA Defensive Player of the Year, two players who captured the President Trophy, two Russ Jackson Trophy recipients and one Hec Crighton Award winner.  The induction of Paul is even more special when you consider he has been responsible for the research and documentation of those eligible for induction since the creation of the Wall of Champions in 2004.  Over the years he has produced over 90 video packages highlighting each inductee and the history of the program.  Recently Paul has produced a book called ‘Mustang Legend’ which chronicles the Western football program from 1908-2018 and contains over 800 pictures.  It tells stories of the people, teams and great moments that make Mustangs football legendary. 

Western Mustangs 1981 Yates Cup Champions
After already capturing the Yates Cup in 1979 and 1980, there were high expectations placed on the 1981 team when 130 players showed up to training camp for 36 spots.  Thanks to a three-touchdown performance by now Head Coach Greg Marshall, the Mustangs steamrolled over the York Yeoman 44-1 in the first game of the season.  Later that year, Western thumped Laurier 32-9 in front of 10,000 fans at Homecoming and would end up finishing the season with seven consecutive wins.  It marked the first time since 1957 that the Mustangs went through the full league schedule without a loss.  Greg Marshall would set a new single-game OUAA rushing record in the 53-11 win over Laurier in the league semi-finals, thanks to his 317 yards on 24 carries.  Despite being down 7-6 at halftime to Guelph in the Yate Cup, Western would prevail 17-7 courtesy of their halfback Ryan Potter who scored the lone touchdown for the Mustangs.  With the win, the Mustangs would advance to the National semi-final known then as the Western Bowl and play the Alberta Golden Bears.  Despite Greg Marshall being named the game MVP for this 206 rushing yards, a 32-yard field goal with 11-seconds left in the game by Alberta ended Western’s season 32-31.  The Acadia Axeman would end up beating Alberta 18-12 for the 17th Vanier Cup held at Varsity Stadium in Toronto.  Although the team came up shy of the ultimate goal, the ’81 team is considered one of the best in program history, producing eight 1st team All-Stars, six 2nd team All-Stars, three All-Canadians and incredibly 16 players would go onto play in the CFL.             

Later on in the evening at the London Convention Centre over 400 people gathered for the Champions Club – 2019 Wall of Champions Dinner, where videos highlighted the incredible accomplishments of those inducted.