Jacques Dussault was the first francophone to break many barriers and his status as a pioneer will be recognized. On Thursday, the Canadian Football Hall of Fame announced that he will be inducted there on September 15.
Dussault will lead a delegation of seven new members, including three ex-Alouettes John Bowman, Josh Bourke and Larry Smith. Linebacker Solomon Elimimian, offensive lineman Lloyd Fairbanks and defensive back Larry Crawford will be added to this group.
“I never thought about that, it’s not usually the kind of thing that turns me on,” Dussault said during a videoconference last week. Wally [Buono, who told him the news] must have thought I was flat: I asked him what I was going to do there!
“I don’t quite realize it yet. I’m more comfortable on the field. I found it a bit funny to receive this honor when you do a job that you love. No one ever pushed me to go to work! […] When I look back on it, I think so much the better! Once again, what some Quebecers are doing – and I am not counting myself on this – is finally recognized. »
Dussault learned it from the mouth of Wally Buono, legendary Quebec coach, who called Dussault to tell him.
And anyone who knows “the coach” won’t be surprised by his reaction. “It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t turn me on more than that. What made me happy was talking with Wally because I coached with him for three years. My reaction is, “What am I doing here?” I did not expect that. That was not my goal,” Dussault replied.
Dussault plays down what he accomplished, but at the time it was anything but trivial. After training as a coach in high schools and at the University of Trois-Rivières, he was hired in 1981 by Albany State, in the American university ranks.
“My goal was if another coach came along with a weird name – because I didn’t often call myself Jacques Dussault! – let the door be open for him. For me, it was very, very important that if another wanted to have this kind of experience, that he didn’t start with a hold against him, because there had been one before him and he didn’t. didn’t impress anyone. »
Dussault would go on to become, in 1982, the very first French-speaking coach in CFL history when the Alouettes hired him as a defensive assistant.
“Of course it makes me a little velvet to have been the first French speaker to reach different levels, like the CFL, because my English was not the most fantastic, he admits. I learned that at 20, 21 playing at McGill. It makes me a little velvet because football was not a sport for French speakers. It was hockey for so many reasons. Barriers have been broken down. »
Dussault will then pursue a busy career, which will take him, among other things, to the universities of the Maritimes (Acadia and Mount Allison), to the short-lived World Football League (the Machine), to the Canadian League (the Alouettes) and to the Quebec university, as the very first head coach in the history of the Carabins.
“I can’t speak for the others, but I wanted to be Jacques Dussault,” Alouettes general manager Danny Maciocia said Wednesday. He had coached the Machine, the Concordes, the Alouettes. I was young, so I spent a lot of time with him to see how a young coach can earn a living. »
In parallel with his career, all of Quebec football has taken off. Uncomfortable to talk about his own journey, Dussault gets carried away, moreover, when he describes this growth of football from here.
“The Rouge et Or program is to be commended, because it brought enthusiasm for football to a part of Quebec where it was more or less popular,” he notes. I come from Sainte-Foy. In my day, when you talked about football, you made yourself look funny! »
It must be said that Dussault contributed to this by pushing for local talent. Danny Maciocia, for example, says that Dussault recruited him with Team Quebec in 1993 for the Canada Cup.
“Then, in 1996, when the Alouettes came back, it was he who called Bob Price [head coach at the time] to tell him that a young person wanted to volunteer, to find out if he wanted to meet me. . I got the interview and that’s where I started my CFL career. It’s all thanks to Jacques. »
Dussault was then able to follow the growth of Quebec football closely, at different levels. “I coached four years with the Estacades [Editor’s note: at the juvenile AAA level]. You can go two years without seeing a match at this level, and you come back and the players are bigger, stronger!
“When I started with the Alouettes, in the early 1980s, we drafted Canadian players, and after five or six names in the first round, it stopped there. The caliber was not level. Then it exploded. There, we have three French-speaking universities that have football programs. In the old days, there were none! »
Dussault has been officially retired since 2017, but he remains on the lookout. Maciocia says he talks to Dussault “every 10 days”. “And during the season, it’s every week. We always talk to each other 24 or 48 hours before a match, ”reveals the DG.
Alouettes special teams coordinator Byron Archambault says he never “had the chance” to be coached by Dussault. But Quebec football is a small world, so they often interacted, especially when Archambault was part of the Carabins coaching staff, from 2017 to 2019.
“One time he calls me, ‘I saw you do something different about placements, the way you place guys’ feet. Can you explain to me why you’re doing this? It’s unconventional.” »
“I’m here, a young coach, it took me a second or two. I went, “Wow.” »
“Every time you talk to him, it’s a pleasure. He is very bright. It is said that people who are “football smart” see the game in slow motion. He is like that, and he is able to explain his way of seeing football, how to slow it down. This is a very high quality in a coach. »
Larry Smith has done and seen it all.
The native of Hudson, Quebec has touched everything in the CFL. Winner of two Gray Cup titles as a player with the Montreal Alouettes, he returned to the world of football 12 years after his retirement, this time as league commissioner. Under his reign, the CFL tried to establish itself in the United States, but the experiment lasted only a few seasons before the League returned to an all-Canadian format.
“The money from the five American teams went to the Canadian clubs. It was helpful for us,” Larry Smith notes to date.
After resigning from his position as commissioner, Larry Smith immediately became president of the Alouettes from 1997 to 2001, then from 2004 to 2010. It was under his leadership that the club moved to Percival-Molson Stadium and then won its last two league titles. Gray Cup in 2009 and 2010.
“When we started in Montreal, it was a mess,” he recalls. We have to admit that he left the club in a much better position. The Alouettes went on a 100-game sell-out streak while he was in charge of the team. Since his departure, the club has not only been unable to win another Gray Cup, but he has not reached the final.
Since 2010, Larry Smith has been a senator enjoying life with his dog. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his lifetime achievement and earned the title of “Builder”. The 71-year-old is proud of all his accomplishments. However, the concussions, so frequent in his time, prevent him from remembering, in particular, his career as a player.
Larry Smith has done and seen it all. But if his memories no longer belong to him, they will be forever protected in the Hall of Fame.
John Bowman did not play football when he was very young, like many. He certainly did not dream of making a career there like his friends. In fact, he started playing football with the goal of finding a prom companion. And now he is inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The 7th-ranked CFL sack sack player has played 14 seasons on the league and they’ve all been in an Alouettes uniform. In reaction to his accession to the Temple in his first year of eligibility, Bowman simply replied that the voters were “unreasonable.”
There is only one reason why Bowman is now in this position today: his work ethic. He himself admits that he was never the most talented, the fastest, or even the strongest player. But he was “the hardest worker” and this ardor, he said, made supporters become attached to him. “I don’t run 40 yards in 4.4 seconds. People can’t relate to that. On the other hand, I have always worked very hard. And that, people can recognize themselves in that. »
It is also a story of resilience and longevity. “Some coaches wanted to cut me off the team. But to have remained so long in the team testifies to all the progress made. I wouldn’t change that for the world, because it made me the man I am today. »
Although the American said he did not know where Canada was before arriving in Quebec, he claims to have fallen in love with the city of Montreal. He says he’s disappointed to have won “only” two Gray Cup titles. He remains a proud representative of the Alouettes.