Coach brings top credentials to Mustangs

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

The Western Mustangs haven't produced Canada's top university football defensive player in 20 years.

But they're beginning to hire into the family that has made the President's Trophy their personal property lately.

Mickey Donovan, a former linebacker and the county's top defender in 2004 at Concordia, has signed on to serve as Western's full-time football assistant coach. He comes from offence-stopping blood -- his brother Patrick has followed in his footsteps by winning the last two defensive player of the year honours at his alma mater.

"I'm excited to be at Western and to get the chance to work with the players and staff here," the 27-year-old said. "I played for Greg (Mustangs head coach Greg Marshall) in Hamilton and I could tell right away he was a great guy. He actually gave his (Western business) card to my brother Patrick and that's how it got started."

Donovan will handle the team's linebackers -- one of the biggest question marks heading into this season with the graduation of mainstays John Rowan, Johnny Chehade and Tyler Cook. He will also assist defensive and recruiting co-ordinator Paul Gleason with finding players.

"He has so much energy and the players can't help but feed off that," Marshall said. "He won the defensive player of the year in 2004 and he probably should've won it the year before. It's incredible (what he and his brother have done). I liked him right away. He walked on at a free agent camp in Hamilton and he was the strongest guy there -- benching over 400 pounds and running a sub-4.4 second 40 (yard-dash) in the rain.

"He just had injuries and it was one thing after another. When I was fired by Hamilton, I wanted to take him with me. He's a good fit for us here."

Donovan hails from Laconia, N.H., and was part of the coaching staff at his home state university last season. He is looking forward to a bigger spotlight in London.

"New Hampshire was a Division 1-AA school and where they played, the capacity at the stadium was about 8,000," he said. "At Western, I would say the facilities are the quality of a Division 1-A school and I know the goal is to play in front of 11,000 a game.

"Already, I've been talking to players in my office every day. We're going to have a group willing to work its tail off and I see my job as making these guys not just become friends, but to feel like brothers."

Donovan started his university playing career at Maine before transferring to Concordia, where head coach Gerry McGrath referred to him as "the most dominating defensive player I have ever seen."

"I'm going to take my experiences at different places -- Maine, Concordia, New Hampshire and Hamilton -- and try to bring those to this team," Donovan said. "We have a great staff and most of these guys have been here a long time in this program. I hope to offer a unique perspective."

Like many American players, Donovan didn't know much about Canadian football before he got to Concordia. He knew about Western's football tradition but never faced the Mustangs with the Stingers.

"I love the Canadian game -- there's room for the smaller, faster player here and though they're not on full scholarships, they work just as hard," he said.

EASTER ON BOARD

Chatham Maroons GM and head coach Dave Easter has been hired as the sponsorship and marketing co-ordinator for Western athletics.

The 47-year-old Chatham native, also a part-owner of the junior B Maroons, will remain in charge of his hometown's Western Ontario Hockey League team.

UNIVERSITY GAMES

Western's top female athlete -- badminton champ Jenn Lam -- is part of a UWO contingent on Canada's team at the current World University Games in Bangkok, Thailand.

Western coach Rock Basacco, keeper Haidar Al-Shaibani, defender Adam Legg and striker Jason de Thomasis are part of the soccer team.

Other local and area athletes include London's Joe Bartoch (swimming), golfer Lee French, Corunna heptathlete Jillian Drouin and Chatham's Adam Kaminski (volleyball).


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