50TH VANIER CUP INTERVIEW SERIES: Kent Warnock, Calgary (1985)

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50TH VANIER CUP INTERVIEW SERIES: 1985

A conversation with…

Kent Warnock, defensive lineman, University of Calgary Dinosaurs

In Vanier Cup XXI, the Calgary Dinosaurs captured their second national title in three years – and the second in program history – thanks to a convincing 25-6 win over the Western Ontario Mustangs at Varsity Stadium in Toronto. After allowing a touchdown 2:44 into the contest, the Dinosaurs completely shut down their OUAA opponents the rest of the way en route to victory. Kent Warnock, a towering defensive lineman who was listed at 6’7’’ and 262 lbs. on game day, was one of many Calgary players who earned a second Vanier Cup ring that season.

What is your fondest memory of your Vanier Cup win in 1985?

Winning the game, basically shutting them (Western Ontario) out except for the first drive. It was my last college game and a good way to end my U of C career with the guys I played with for four years.

What was the difference between winning in 1983 and winning again in 1985?

In 1983, the focus was on our offence with Greg Vavra, Tim Petros and the rest of our offensive unit. We had such a prolific attack in 1983, but the 1985 team was built on defence. Field conditions were poor in the 1985 game, so defence was that much more important.

(Note: Vavra, a quarterback, was the Hec Crighton Trophy winner in 1983, while Petros, a running back, was named MVP of Calgary’s first Vanier Cup win after he rushed for 260 yards against Queen’s. In the 1985 final, the Dinosaurs defence held Western Ontario to 279 yards of net offence, including only 38 on the ground)

After Western scored on their initial drive, they never made it beyond your 45-yard line for the remainder of the game. How confident were you in your defence?

We knew we had a great defence with a solid front seven and great secondary. All the media attention in Ontario was on Western. Their quarterback, Steve Samways, was the all-Canadian that season, so we knew we had to be ready. We had confidence our defence would be able to stop them.

We were not fazed at all after the first drive. We blocked the convert and took it from there. We had great, experienced coaches such as Peter Connellan and Rick Coleman and just reloaded. Darcy Kopp anchored our secondary and Wade Buteau was an awesome middle linebacker; both were experienced leaders and players.

(Note: Samways, an all-Canadian in both 1985 and 1986, completed 19 of 41 passes for 279 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the Vanier Cup. Kopp, an all-Canadian in 1984 and 1985, and Buteau, an all-Canadian in 1983, had the Calgary interceptions)

The Dinosaurs had a number of close games in the 1985 season but ended the year on a four-game winning streak and outscored their opponents in the playoffs by huge margins, including the ‘Freezer Bowl’ against Carleton in Calgary. What turned the season around?

We had a veteran team and were motivated after what happened in 1984, when we had such a great team but came up short at Guelph in the national semi-final, after winning the Vanier Cup in 1983. We wanted to go out on top as many of us were in our final year of school. Our conference was really tough that year. We went 6-2 but some of our wins were really close games.

(Note: During the 1985 regular season, the Dinosaurs won three games by three points or less, including 18-17 vs. UBC, 31-29 vs. Manitoba and 24-21 vs. Manitoba. In their two playoff games leading up to the Vanier Cup, both on home turf at McMahon Stadium, they dominated Manitoba 52-13 in the Hardy Cup conference final and Carleton 56-14 in the Western Bowl national semifinal)

Describe the feeling of winning two Vanier Cups in the span of three years.

Simply an awesome feeling. Great friendships had developed with the guys who were also on the team in 1983. When we won our first Vanier Cup, I was in my first year as a starter and only in my second year with the team. In 1985, I was a senior with experience.

What is your fondest memory of the trip home?

Having the Vanier Cup next to me on the plane ride was awesome. Somehow, I wound up with it and a picture of that was on the front page of the Calgary Herald.

How did winning the Vanier Cup affect your professional career in football and your career after football?

It had a great influence. I had the opportunity to go the Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp and was one of the final cuts. Playing in big games definitely helped my experience in so many ways. I was fortunate to be on two Vanier Cup championship teams and two Grey Cup championship teams in football, which is a total team sport.

How do you remain in touch with the players that you played with on those Vanier Cup teams?

I look back at the bond of friendships I had made with the teammates. I’m still friends with many of those guys. The bulk of our guys were local players and southern Alberta players. Our parents were close and we remain close after all these years. We see each other around town all the time and as I’m coaching the current Dinos, I see lots of the guys. A couple of their sons now play for us.

What are you doing now?

I am defensive line coach with the Dinos and work for a medical device company, BSN, that manufactures medical products. Football helped me get the job because of the creditability as a patient. One of the products we sold was casts. I took the career from there.

MORE ABOUT KENT WARNOCK:

A native of Saint John, N.B., Warnock was selected first overall by the Calgary Stampeders in the 1986 Canadian Football League draft. Before embarking on his CFL career, he had a tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League but was one of their last cuts. He went on to play eight CFL seasons with Calgary (1987-1992) and the BC Lions (1993-1994), winning a Grey Cup with both teams (1992, 1994). He was a CFL all-star in 1990.

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