Former Montreal offensive lineman Bryan Chiu tries his hand at coaching CIS football

MONTREAL (CUP)—FOR MOST OF his 13-year career, Bryan Chiu was considered the best centre in the Canadian Football League. Chiu was the recipient of various accolades, such as the 2002 Most Outstanding Lineman award, 16 total All-Star selections (seven-time CFL All-Star, nine-time CFL East All-Star), all while anchoring a dominant offensive line en route to two Grey Cup championships with the Montreal Alouettes.

Chiu’s surprising retirement announcement via his Twitter account during the summer of 2010 caught the city of Montreal by surprise.

But while his retirement was a heavy blow to the Alouettes, it was a blessing for the Concordia Stingers football team. Two weeks after the announcement, Concordia head coach Gerry McGrath hired Chiu to take on the roles of assistant offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.

“When Gerry got back from training camp in Saskatchewan he gave me a call… We went out for lunch and he basically just offered me the job,” said Chiu.

His good relationship with McGrath was also a big reason for joining the Stingers’ coaching staff.

“Over the years I had gotten to know Coach McGrath. We built a good relationship and I would always joke with him that someday I’d come and coach with him.”

Although Chiu never actually gave serious thought to coaching after his career, his love for the game of football was too great to drop the game entirely, and coaching provided a way for him to stay involved with it after his retirement. Despite opportunities to immediately coach professionally, Chiu didn’t feel the timing was quite right.

“I still have a lot to learn about the game of football, and I think [Concordia] is a great place for me to be,” he said. “I have some security here right now, and I’m comfortable here. I just feel like it’s more rewarding for me to get the 17-year-old kids out of high school who want nothing more than to become pro football players, and if I can help those guys out, all the better.”

Chiu admits once in a while he still gets the itch to get back on the field, but he is content with his new role as a leader from the sidelines, instead of at the position he dominated for over a decade.

As a former professional athlete, he understands that, while it does serve as an advantage in coaching, his experience as a college player helps him relate to his players better.

Having been in their shoes, he knows what it takes to get to the next level, and this invaluable experience will no doubt serve great purpose to the up and coming stars not only on the Stingers offensive line, but to the entire roster.

“Seeing these kids mature and helping them balance not only football, but their academics, jobs, and personal lives, it makes you much more than just a coach to them,” he said. “The best thing about this job is being able to have a positive influence on these kids.”

—Andrew Maggio