28 New Faces - Recruiting Class of 2019
Western Mustangs FootballJohn Urban
On Wednesday evening at TD Stadium, the Western Mustangs football team introduced 28 new players to the program as a part of the 2019 recruitment class. Accompanied by their friends and family, one-by-one they were introduced to the media by Recruiting Coordinator Kevin MacNeill. Head Coach Greg Marshall followed with some motivating words for the players and comforting words for their parents. After, a Q&A session allowed parents to voice their concerns regarding their child’s education and athletics. The event concluded with a dinner, allowing the boys to eat together for the first time.
Eight of the news faces are local products: Matt Adams, Graham Crittenden, Liam Fulton, Mohsen Jamal, Siwon Lee, Ahmed Meddoui, Emerson Paleczny and John Pantazopoulos. “Ever since I came to London, I was 11-years old, Western football has always been a big name” said Oakridge High School product Ahmed Meddoui. Joining Ahmed from Oakridge is Emerson Paleczny: “Coming from London and playing for the London Jr. Mustangs, I’ve been wearing the purple for a couple years now. So it seems like the right fit for me to keep wearing the purple for a few years.” You could tell the day shared with family was extra special to those who attended Mustangs football games with their parents as a kid. “I grew up watching this football program, so it’s really exciting to become a part of what I dreamt of,” said A.B. Lucas product Siwon Lee.
The majority of the new recruits played on the defensive side of the ball in secondary school, with a special focus on linebackers. Connor Chapman, Craig Coleman, Graham Crittenden, Siwon Lee, Jack Martino and Emerson Paleczny all excelled at this position on the high school level, but maybe relied upon to develop quickly in the university scene. “We need some linebackers, we are graduating all three and there is a chance for a freshman kid to come in and play right away,” said Defensive Coordinator Paul Gleason. The thought of first year player making an impact on the defense is not unconceivable when you consider the great performances of Robert Panabaker and Jacob Andrews last season as Defensive Backs. Also, two seasons ago Daniel Valente Jr. was named OUA Rookie of the Year, helping guide the Mustangs to a National Championship in 2017.
Most of the recruits still have to finish high school, but arguably the biggest recruit introduced comes from the NCAA. Hailing from the Minnesota Golden Gophers, a Division I football program, tailback Jonathan Femi-Cole already graduated south of the border and will be taking a master’s program at Western. The native of Vaughan, Ontario red shirted his first two seasons, making his NCAA debut in 2017 against Middle Tennessee where he grabbed 16 yards on 5 carries. However, attending St. Andrew’s College prior to heading state side, he is familiar with Western and Quarterback Chris Merchant. “They were (Western) the first and only school to ask to recruit me before heading down south. So it was an easy decision to come back home,” expressed Femi-Cole. “As you probably know we actually played ball together in high school at St. Andrew’s College. So we’ve been close for a while and he hasn’t missed a beat since going to the States and coming back and I’m just hoping to follow that same path.” Head Coach Greg Marshall welcomed the mature student “kind of fits in with Alex (Taylor) graduating, Cedric (Joseph) graduating. You know, good opportunity to fit into our backfield.” Nothing is guaranteed with any new player, but Coach Marshall is confident about Jonathan’s abilities “someone that can come in and contribute right away.”
August 14th appears to be the date set for 2019’s Training Camp, as everyone will have to hit the ground running with the first game scheduled for August 25th against the Laurier Golden Hawks in Waterloo, Ontario. The Western Mustangs have their first home game on September 2nd against the Queen’s Gaels, led by former Offensive Coordinator and Recruiter Steve Snyder in some Monday Night Football. Greg Marshall summarized the start of the journey to the new faces perfectly “if they stick it out, they persevere and they work hard, no matter what happens on the football field…you will leave here as a Champion.”