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Old 12-12-2007, 07:03 PM   #1
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Default 5 Canadian UCONN Football Players

While at work last weekend, I ran into 2 players from the 2007 University of Connecticut football team. Nice kids!! I call them "the Alexes"..Alex #94 and Alex #54!! We chatted for a bit and I got their autographs too (on Estee Lauder XMas wrapping paper!! lol).

The Alexes love being on the team and appreciate the opportunity to travel (Christmas, they'll be in North Carolina for the Meinike Car Care Bowl). They also told me of the many international teammates this season and...5 are from Canada! So I wanted to pass this article along:

It's A Small World After All For UConn Football

UConn's international football players:
L-R: Shawn Mayne (Montreal, Que.), O'Neil Wilson (Scarborough, Ont.), Conn Davis (St. Thomas, V.I.), Aloys Manga (Duana, Cameroon), Recruiting Coordinator Lyndon Johnson, Adam Coles (Gladesville, Australia), Jason Ward (St. Hippolyte, Que.), Hakeem Kashama (Brampton, Ont.) and Dan Desriveaux (Laval, Que.).

Football is an American game. Other sports in the United States, especially on the professional level, have developed an international flavor, but football remains a game primarily with players from the 50 United States.

At UConn, and many other colleges across America, that is starting to change somewhat. This year’s edition of the Huskies had eight players with roots outside of the United States.

UConn had five players from Canada – with two from Ontario (junior defensive end Hakeem Kashama of Brampton and junior wide receiver O’Neil Wilson of Scarborough) and three from Quebec (freshman wide receiver Dan Desriveaux of Laval, freshman linebacker Shawn Mayne of Montreal and freshman defensive end Jason Ward of St. Hippolyte).

The Huskies also featured junior punter Adam Coles, a native of Gladesville, Australia, and freshman offensive tackle Aloys Manga of Duana, Cameroon. Freshman wide receiver Conn Davis is from St. Thomas of the Virgin Islands – a territory of the United States.

“As we continue to build a Division I-A football program here at UConn, it’s important for us to look at every option,” says Husky head coach Randy Edsall. “More and more schools in the United States are looking at players from different countries, especially in Canada. The foreign players may not get a lot of attention, but there is some talent out there.”

The foreigner that made the biggest impact on the Husky team this year was Coles. He came to UConn with experience as an Australian Rules Football player and is making a name for himself as a Husky as well. He is presently UConn’s all-time leader in career punting yardage with 8,469 while ranking second all-time in punting average at 39.8 and third in total punts with 213.

Australian Rules Football players first got attention in the United States when Darren Bennett, a native of Sydney, made the San Diego Charges as a punter and then earned a spot in the 1995 Pro Bowl. He continues to punt for the Chargers this season.

“When Darren had success in the NFL, scouts from American football started to come to Australia to look at players that could punt the ball,” says Coles, who admits his only exposure to football in childhood was through video games. “They ran a competition and I came in second. That’s when I first knew I could punt at the American college level.”

Coles is enjoying his time here in the United States and playing for the Huskies.

“It’s great at UConn and I love it over here in the United States,” says Coles. “It’s not much different than Australia apart from the weather. The weather is a lot different than the weather in Sydney. That’s the biggest difference. When I go home for Christmas it’s ridiculously hot and then I come back to the freezing again.”

Coles was named to the preseason watch list for the Ray Guy Award – which is given to the top punter in college football each year. He used his Australian Rules Football background in the game at Miami when a snap went well over his head. He has to back peddle and did get off a punt, right before he was flattened by a Miami defender. Although the punt was officially registered at just 24 yards, the boot was well over 50.

“My Australian Rules Football background was very helpful on that play,” says Coles. “I saw the Miami player coming at me. In Australia, what I did was called a ‘snap kick.’ It’s when you kick it around your body.”

Manga’s route to UConn started in Cameroon and went to The Master’s School in Simsbury before landing in Storrs.

“There is a great opportunity that you have here in the United States,” says Manga, who cousin Charles played basketball for Seton Hall in the mid-1990s. “If you play sports well, you can get a college scholarship to get a good education and be successful in your life. Plus, the people in the United State are very friendly.”

Manga went to The Master’s School and was a member of the basketball and lacrosse teams there. He was advised because of his 6-7, 296-pound frame that football may just be the game for him.

“I started to pick up American football back home by watching it on television,” says Manga. “When the Super Bowl game is played, the show it back home.”

The first sports Manga played were soccer and volleyball, but he also has an extensive background in judo.

“Judo was really my first sport,” says Manga, who looks to redshirt this year at UConn. “My father won the championship of Cameroon in judo.”

Kashama has truly lived an international life. He was born in the African country of Zaire and moved to Canada with his parents in his childhood.

“I didn’t think a lot about football growing up because nobody played football in Africa,” says Kashama, who played high school football at Bramalea High School. “When my family moved to the Toronto area, the football coach there asked my buddies and I to start playing. We like the game with all its hitting.

“After we were playing for two years, college coaches started to notice us. I didn’t even know you could get a scholarship for college by playing football. We had seven kids in my family so it was an opportunity to help my parents out by not asking them to spend too much money for me to go to college. I stuck with the game through high school and got a scholarship.”

Kashama was limited to playing in just two games in 2001 with an injury, but has come back to see action in all six contests this year and has made nine tackles, including three in the win at Buffalo.

Although it is a popular destination for tourist, the Virgin Islands is not exactly known for producing great athletes with Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs being an exception.

“I visited a lot of schools when I was in high school,” says Davis. “I liked the football program here at UConn and I really liked the education that you got here. The program in on the upswing and I liked the Northeast location.”

Davis attended Antilles High School and played for the team in his final two years at the school as the institution reinstated football.

“I went to a college preparatory school, so I always planned on coming to the States for college,” says Davis. “At the end of my junior year there, I knew I could play football on the college level and that led me to UConn.”

As UConn football continues to grow and expand, the international players on the roster look to play a bigger role. Most of the “foreign Huskies” are younger players and are still adjusting to the Division I level. But, they look to get better and are another interesting component to the UConn football story.

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Old 12-13-2007, 11:39 AM   #2
Don Quixote
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Default Re: 5 Canadian UCONN Football Players

Interesting article. As a UConn alum (two degrees, MA and Ph.D.), it's been interesting to see how they've expanded both on campus and in their sports programs. They used to go in for the "small ticket" sports (soccer, baseball), and then basketball took off, both men's and women's, and now they're going big time in football, which I always thought was impossible. We'll see what happens to the program in the coming years, especially if coach Randy Edsall ends up going somewhere else for more money and fame, as almost happened after this season.
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Old 12-13-2007, 11:58 AM   #3
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Default Re: 5 Canadian UCONN Football Players

Kewl, Pam. However, it does not surprise me that there are Canadians playing football in the US!

The article is in error in one would lead one to believe that football originated in the US, which is not quite correct. Both Americans and Canadians started playing some form of football in the early to mid 1800's.

The first documented football game in Canada occurred in Toronto. As in the US, the game was largely a varsity game, being played at the college/university level. It was in 1868 that first non-amateur football club was formed in Montreal. The forerunner to the Canadian Football League has been in existence since 1868 (although it did not become a member of the International Federation of American Football until 2004!)

The National (American) Football League had a similar origin, being derived from inter-collegiate matches. Rules for the game had been codified in 1867, but it was a non-amateur game until 1920, when the first professional teams were formed in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The first year that Canadian teams competed for a trophy (The Grey Cup) was in 1909...long before the existence or the concept of the Super Bowl (which was first played in 1967.)

One item of interest is that the first North American match was played between McGill University (Montreal) and Harvard (Cambridge) in 1874! So the statement that "football" is an American game is not quite correct.

For background, see:

History of Canadian Football

Comparison of Canadian and American Football

Americans (and I am one) often view the Canadian Football League as a place where players who don't make the cut for the NFL go to play. Not so! It's a league which, because of its method of play, is more "accepting" for those who have the talent, but are often overlooked by the NFL teams because of their lack of size (e.g., Doug Flutie of Boston College who became a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame this year.)

It could be argued that Americans have embraced football to a greater extent than Canadians, making it "their" game. Likewise, hockey could be designated a "Canadian" game, although, ironically, the first professional ice hockey game in North America was played in Michigan!

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Old 12-13-2007, 12:02 PM   #4
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Default Re: 5 Canadian UCONN Football Players

Love Doug Flutie (and his bro-Darren) and Pinball Clemons..
not so crazy about Football tho..
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Old 12-13-2007, 04:24 PM   #5
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Default Re: 5 Canadian UCONN Football Players

Originally Posted by Don Quixote View Post
Interesting article. As a UConn alum (two degrees, MA and Ph.D.), it's been interesting to see how they've expanded both on campus and in their sports programs. They used to go in for the "small ticket" sports (soccer, baseball), and then basketball took off, both men's and women's, and now they're going big time in football, which I always thought was impossible. We'll see what happens to the program in the coming years, especially if coach Randy Edsall ends up going somewhere else for more money and fame, as almost happened after this season.
Always nice to run into a fellow UCONN alum...and share thoughts on the changes throughout the years!!! How long ago were you a student there? Was it before the "new" library was built?

I had applied and we were awarded an important grant for a University entity while I was still an undergrad and it's been great to see the results/benefit of this.

Yeah when the Alexes and I were talking, they asked me if I was going to the soccer game that afternoon. I would have loved to have gone...though UCONN lost (kind of a flukey thing because the field was a challenge to play on). EVERYBODY was was the best attended UCONN soccer game EVER.

My friend recalls being a student there when the basketball games were still played in the field house. Actually...there were still some games being played there when I was a student!

I've not been to too many of the basketball games and we have a standing date ritual for the Women's and Men's Big East and NCAA at my uncle's house. We did get to go to a Midnight Madness one year at Gampel when John Gwynn (#15) was a ref. When my son was in 1st/2nd grade he had befriended John...was his student teacher. We've lost touch now, but John and his wife came to one of my son's birthday parties. John was a HUGE hit!!!

These Husky players are our local celebrities and role models for our youth. The football team is following suit with the woman's team -expecting/encouraging/requiring that these players have high academic standards/achievement. This is the way it should be. I hope the Men's basketball team will go in this direction someday. In the environment that has persisted and exists today, college basketball serves as a training field for the NBA.

Some exceptional scholars from the Men's team of course -Ray Allen and Emeka Okafor. I think thnk both of them graduated in 3 years. It's sad, a real pity to see all these other players enter the NBA draft before graduating. And although they get tutors - that they're not required to attend classes!!! I didn't even know there were 5+ men's team players in one of my classes until one of the last days...when they all attended and my prof and other students got their autographs!!

But I was at UCONN when the basketball teams took off -so that was a thrill!! I got to meet players like Travis Knight (actually, that wasn't even on campus...met him at the Brickyard club) and Ray Allen.

Well -great subject and I hope someday to make it to Renschelar for a game. The traffic around there is KILLER as it is around campus when there's a basketball game going on. I have to keep up with what's going on if even to plan a route home or around campus at these times!

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Old 12-13-2007, 04:49 PM   #6
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Default Re: 5 Canadian UCONN Football Players

Hi, Pam. I go back a bit farther than you do with my UConn connections. I was a basketball fan 'way in the days of Toby Kimball, Wes Bialasuknia and the like, when the father of a friend of mine took me to the field house for a couple of games. Who knows; I might have been your teacher (I was a T.A. in Spanish in the late 70s and early 80s) if you studied there during those years. I saw them build the new library (and then have to make such extensive repairs on it that they almost had to close it, it was so poorly designed), the new co-op, the new science and business buildings, the new sports arena--everything except a new humanities builiding (Arjona Hall still looks the same). I guess we know where the money is! I still go back occasionally to do some research at the library (it's been a couple of years since my last visit, but I'll probably be back this winter at some point), but every time I go I marvel at how much the campus has changed--it certainly doesn't look like it was plopped down in the middle of some cow pasture like when I was younger.

Nice to share some memories.
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Old 12-14-2007, 03:47 AM   #7
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Cathy...thanks you for the awesome info....very interesting!

DQ -well I guess we missed eachother...early 80's I was in Springfield, a student at STCC (and took French). I later went to MCC (A.S) then transferred to UCONN in 1993 (did take Spanish...I had a great TA).

The office I worked in was in the basement of Jorgenson (though not at the time Gord performed there) and we were relocated to one of the vacant stacks of the old library in Wilbur Cross. Some of the stacks had been used to store records...and the 1st stacks was being used by the Natural History Museum. I had to clean 20 years worth of dirt off the shelves before we could move in.

Had everything very nice and in good working order and then renovations started on stacks above us. We had something dripping down from above...the chemical they were using to remove aspestos . That's how we found out we were going to get kicked out of there and have to relocate again (down to Horsebarn Hill Rd.).

Before we vacated the building...I contacted the Daily Campus and others to come and take pictures/document the graffiti while there was still time. We really enjoyed reading all of it -including some that 'documented' the closing of the library!! Nobody ever came and since I had to pack and organize the move (along with taking classes and working another job) -I simply didn't have time to do this!!

I almost got hit by some of the debris falling off the facade of the "new library". What a terrible thing, the entire project...that the construction didn't account for the weight of the shelving/books!! The books had actually become cocked on the shelves!!! It's been said that with the $$$ it cost to remediate the problems...could have built a whole new library!!

If you have a sure to check out the interior of the Wilbur Cross. It's all ultra-modern...very nice!!! Also...if you remember the "apple building" -there's something new and special in there that is a "must see". The Student Center in getting revamped too. The UCONN dairy bar has been renovated and they're now producing cheese there.

I hated having classes in Arjona -well all the classroom/buildings were much the same. Mostly, I "lived" in Beech Hall.

There's supposed to be a new Music/Arts building. I went to the Architect's competition for this (Frank Gehry's design won) back in 2003 or 04. Nothing has been started yet.

The UCONN 2000 is the one good thing that, that criminal Guv. Rowland did. Still, there have been many, many problems that have arose due to faulty construction, etc.

Anyway - I knew the area was in for a drastic change when the Sugar Shack closed . No more University Music Store either.

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Old 12-14-2007, 10:29 AM   #8
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Default Re: 5 Canadian UCONN Football Players

I thought what's the big deal, Canadian football players from Yukon??? As in Yukon Territory.

("the river is the melody, the sky is the refrain")
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