50TH VANIER CUP INTERVIEW SERIES: 2008
A conversation with.
Julian Feoli-Gudino, receiver/returner, Laval University Rouge et Or
In Vanier Cup XLIV, the Laval Rouge et Or claimed their fifth national title in 10 years thanks to a spectacular 44-21 win over the Western Ontario Mustangs at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton. In a contest that saw the two teams combine for almost 1,000 yards of net offence, the Rouge et Or scored four touchdowns of over 60 yards, including a pair by receiver and punt returner Julian Feoli-Gudino. The Costa Rica-born standout was named game MVP after he racked up 207 all-purpose yards, including 112 on four catches.
What is your major memory of the entire Vanier Cup weekand the overall experience?
It was a magical week that I’ll cherish forever as my first Vanier Cup win. The welcome we received from the organizing committee and the people of Hamilton was amazing. We were treated like royalty the entire week and everything was first class.
(Note: Feoli-Gudino was in his second season with Laval in 2008 and would add a second Vanier Cup triumph in 2010)
What is your one major lasting memory of the actual game?
I will always remember the snow that started falling just as we put the game out of reach. The images I have of those bright snowflakes falling from the sky are intimately linked to that Vanier Cup victory. It was magical to see our fans celebrate with the team under the snow after the game.
In such an offence-oriented contest, how did the offensive unit manage the game? What were the players talking about on the bench?
Our offensive coordinator, Justin Éthier, called a brilliant game. First off, the preparation was simply perfect. All the coverage patterns and defensive fronts we had talked about and analyzed happened exactly as anticipated. There was a real sense of calmness during the game because we felt the coaches had given us the tools to succeed. As well, we were a veteran group and our leader, quarterback Benoît Groulx, had just been named CIS player of the year, so we were very confident the whole game.
(Note: Groulx, who two days before the game had become the first Laval player to receive the Hec Crighton trophy, was stellar in the win, completing 17 of 27 for 383 yards and touchdown passes of 82 yards to Feoli-Gudino and 92 yards to Mathieu Bouvette)
What do you remember as the key play of the game?
In a game of that magnitude, it’s hard to single out only was play as the key play. However, in the third quarter, Mathieu Bouvette caught a 92-yard TD pass which, to me, put the game out of reach for the Mustangs because it increased our lead to 34-7.
(Note: Up 3-0 after the opening quarter, Laval exploded for 24 points in the second frame to take a 27-7 advantage into the locker room at halftime. Bouvette’s touchdown 4:05 into the third all but crushed any hopes of a Western comeback)
What was your personal greatest play or moment?
I caught an 82-yard TD pass that gave us a 27-7 lead. In my eyes, it was a very important play because it came immediately after the Mustangs scored their first touchdown of the game, and re-established our 20-point lead.
You also scored on a 74-yard punt return that gave the Rouge et Or a 20-0 lead in the second quarter. Tell us about that play.
Our punt return unit had been great all season. We had blocked a couple of punts and had consistently given the offence good field position. But we hadn’t scored a touchdown yet. We were rewarded in the biggest game of the year. Our special teams coordinator, Francesco Pepe Esposito, called for a return right in the middle. I remember watching the ball in the air, coming slightly to my right, and thinking it was the perfect punt for a return up the middle. As soon as I caught the ball, I aimed for the middle and my teammates had opened such a huge hole that I immediately found myself face-to-face with Western’s punter. All I had to do was fake him and sprint towards the left corner of the end zone.
Did anything unusual or out of the ordinary happen during the game or during Vanier week?
Not that I recall, with the exception of Vanier Cup festivities and dinners.
Did the coaches do anything different from normal routine in the preparation for the game?
Overall, the routine was the same. The preparation might have been a little tighter than usual because of the magnitude of the game. But other than your typical Vanier Cup activities, it was a pretty normal Rouge et Or week.
How did you or the team react to the stadium and the crowd? Was it an hostile crowd since you were playing a team from Ontario?
Personally, the opportunity to play in a pro football stadium with a big screen greatly motivated me. As a team, we knew it would be a hostile crowd. We used that as motivation throughout the week. We wanted to be “party crashers.”
The one thing we hadn’t anticipated was the number of Rouge et Or fans who made the trip to Hamilton. They were unbelievable. They were louder than Western fans even though they were clearly outnumbered. As the game progressed, you could hear more and more cheering in French.
What are your memories of the post-game celebrations on the field and/or in the dressing room?
My fondest memories are being among teammates and feeling an indescribable sense of joy and accomplishment. We sang, we danced, we laughed as one big family. It was a very special moment.
What was the reaction on campus when the team returned?
Everyone was so proud of the team. Congratulations came from everyone and everywhere.
At the time, how did winning the Vanier Cup change your everyday life?
I was now a Vanier Cup champion. I could now say that I had contributed to perpetuate Rouge et Or’s winning tradition. I had also accomplished the one goal I had when I joined the team: win the Vanier Cup. From that moment on, I could focus on my next objective: win another one.
What did you study at Laval and what career paths did you follow after graduation?
I studied industrial relations and I’m now privileged to be able to continue to live out my passion for football in the professional ranks as a member of the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers.