Alumni are a huge part of the #CheetahPride ethos. The aim is to key ex-players and coaches involved with the club in whatever way possible. We caught up with Conor Elliot, the infamous ex-player and HC who has returned to his native Canada but still keeps up to date with all things Cheetahs…
What’s your history in football?
I actually was a hockey player before I started playing ball, until one summer my dad gave me a choice ‘either get a job or play a sport’… and a sport it was. I tried out for the London Falcons of the OVFL (at the time) and no one knew who I was. I started my first game and never looked back. That year we set the record for INTs in a season and won the OVFL championship. I was named the MVP of that game and then the universities started to come around.
I Chose the University of Western Ontario to stay close to home so my people could watch me play. I was in a great spot after my rookie training camp and actually was a dress roster player for every game that year, even starting a few games as a true freshman. From then, my career began. I played 5 years at Western as a Linebacker/Defensive back. We won 3 out of 4 Ontario Championships, lost 2 national semi finals, and lost in the Canadian Championship in 2008. In 2010 I had my best year, finishing second on the team in tackles, first in interceptions, and ended up as a 2ndteam all Canadian and was offered a spot to play in the Canadian CFL East West Shrine game. After that, I was invited to the CFL draft. All of these experiences took me by storm, I never expected anything, I was just playing cause I loved the game and I loved my teammates. I had team workouts with a few CFL teams before the draft in April. That year, during our spring purple and white game, a few friends ran on the field when it was announced that I had been drafted into the CFL 44th overall by the Toronto Argonauts. I did my time in Toronto until eventually I decided to retire. I got my teaching degree and moved to England.
After a year in England, I missed the game so much.. so I had a friend get me a contact for Al Tepper who brought me in with open arms. 3 Years later, I found myself as head coach.
As for right now, I live in Canada, still coaching multiple teams, looking to bring my talents back to england sometime soon.
And tell us a bit about your time at the Cheetahs…
Like I said before, I just missed playing the game. The team, the family. I think my first or second game with the Cheetahs was the home opener when we shut some team out. I had a monster game, and the entire team was on point when we went unbeaten that year. I was heart broken as I had to come back to Canada for the semis, which we lost by a point. The next year I moved to offence, scoring a few touchdowns but never getting into the rhythm. We got afforded a playoff game that year and ended up playing Defence that game and having the game of my life. The next year, on the first play of scrimmage I bust the line and made a beauty tackle, only to have my arm snapped in half on the tackle! Soon after, I became the head coach. It was a tough year, but I loved my vets and I loved my rookies. We had a bond.
What is your favourite memory of the #CheetahPride?
Ohhhhhh that’s a tough one. You guys were my family, every time we got together it was a moment and a laugh. I mean, the bus trips were hilarious, no comment there; we had some hilarious rookie days; did I mention the football? I think one moment was hitting a kid so hard on kickoff he flew for 10 yards, I continued running after the ball not realizing I had completely bent my Revo Helmet cage in half, I always loved crunching kids but that one stood out in my mind. Going unbeaten was special, we had a special team that year. Some of the smash blocks playing WR with a few buddies was shocking as well! I spent a lot of time with Norman Bradford, now a junior coach, and the drives up to the clubhouse were moments I cherished with Norm and we still are close to this day! I cant narrow it down to one moment, or the shirtless warmups in a blizzard, every moment at the Cheetahs was amazing. They were truly my family over there.
Oh man.. I forgot.
The pregame speeches. I used to thrive on those, every ounce of blood was raging in my body after those speeches. And I think I made a couple great tallies as well. But it was amazing being in that circle and rounding my brothers for battle. I loved it.
Are you still involved in football since leaving the Cheetahs?
Ill be involved with football until I physically can no longer do it. I had a coach named Dave Cox who had a serious disease that was riddling his body. He could hardly walk, so they bought him a golf cart. Until his last days he was coaching football and never asked anyone for anything. I hope I can be half the man he was as a coach, and fully intend on doing so.
What advice would you give to players just starting out?
Football is a game built around family. You’ve got your coaches, your brothers… and your enemies. It is a tough game that is gonna test you mentally, physically, and emotionally, but there’s a reason why people play the game – because when you break those barriers and take that negativity away from your mind you become something else, someone else in a place nothing can touch you for the next 60 minutes if you don’t let it. When you’re on the field and you’re wearing your colours and fighting a war with your brothers there is no better feeling. Its a game that requires sacrifice and instinct, but this is all learned away from the game field. Practice is important. Studying is important. Keeping healthy is important. Bonding is important. You gotta find a way to fight through those challenges of life and football and the reward is something that will run through your blood from the first contact you make. Enjoy it. Its the best game in the world, and you gotta be one tough son of a to do it, so play hard. Whistle to whistle there is no mercy. Just controlled chaos. Have fun, but most importantly, keep your head on a swivel.
Those pre-game speeches? They were a key part of the 2017 hype video, which you can enjoy again below!