In the latest of our alumni series, we caught up with ex-Cheetah Tony, who’s now living in Canada. Primarily a powerful running back, Tony made an impression on his peers. RB and Special Teams Captain Conor Wilson said “My time with Tony was very limited, however in the time I had training with him I knew he was the real deal. I was in my rookie year and Tony was the feature back, he was extremely helpful in my development, breaking stuff down for me and explaining why we do certain things, I have no doubt he’ll make a heck of a coach one day if he wanted to. He is also solely the reason I’m so invested. In Special Teams. I was quite shy when putting myself forward for things and he took me over to our ST Co-ordinator and punter and threw me in catching punts. Since then I’ve been the starting returner and one of the reasons why I’m the ST captain. He embodied everything it was to be a Cheetah and I hope he keeps killing it over in Canada.”
Some more from Tony…
What’s your history in football?
*I started playing football in 2007 with the London Blitz youth football program. It was a great experience and got me involved. I always wanted to play receiver but they were stacked so I went and started at rover/ safety. This brought the mindset of hitting and trying to hit everything that moved.
And tell us a bit about your time at the Cheetahs…
My time with the cheetahs was great! I enjoyed playing running back and loved the coaching, player eticate and we even made the playoffs. I can’t stress enough that when you have the right coaching staff in place you want to play for those guys, you want to earn their respect and you want to ball hard for all your brothers. There’s nothing like #cheetahpride and I still wear my jersey in my new home Toronto.
What is your favourite memory of the #CheetahPride?
My favourite moment is playing the Birmingham bulls in the 2015 season. We were down by 7 and it was a punt return. I was running down the right sideline after I scooped the ball on the PR and Im following Conor Elliott’s blocks. I duke one guy and continue running. I then have two guys running to crush me on the right sideline but Conor quickly turns around and takes on two guys at once and I gain another 10 yards. It was a split second move for him to lay those blocks, he’s a monster! but as I tell all new players it’s important to block for your family, it’s us or them… Conor is my brother, we are best of friends and football helped that happen.
Are you still involved in football since leaving the Cheetahs?
I am still involved with a few players here and there, I am proud of the team and I’ve got to give a shoutout to their two fantastic RB’s, Adam and Conor that did more than fill my shoes- I can feel the energy from them and it’s always RB love. The cheetahs being my first adult football team to play for will always have a place in my heart #23.
What advice would you give to players just starting out?
Just ball hard! Yesterday I got the chance to play on the Hamilton Ticats CFL field and my new head coach told the team before the game “if you’re not down to put everything on the line then head to the locker room and take off your equipmemt. This sport isn’t one for everyone, so when you get on that field, know that at least 35+ players are counting on you. Do your job, listen and learn, respect your coaches and ball out! If you do all those things there’s no way you wont succeed in this game.”
My last remark is get on special teams! That’s the easiest way to show your heart, especially to a guy like Coach Norm. A shoutout to all the coaches, with a special thanks to coach Russ and my ex teammates!