Volume 92, Issue 94

Thursday, March 25, 1999


SPORTS

Martinelli steps down ending era

Stanley Cup for sale

Stampeders riding Fordes's fullback

Annunziata remembers his Western roots

Western Rewind

Annunziata remembers his Western roots

By Chad Thompson
Gazette Staff

It is a long way from Western to Winnipeg, but former Mustang football player Sandy Annunziata has made the trek to play offensive guard for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League.

Highly recruited by Western in 1988, Annunziata was part of a recruiting class which included wide receiver Tyrone Williams and quarterback John LeClair. Mustang head coach Larry Haylor remembers Annunziata as a large and tough competitor.

"We recruited him hard," Haylor said. "He was a big strong athletic player and when he wanted, he was very dominating on the field."

Former offensive line coach for the Mustangs Greg Marshall remembers him as a good player and teammate.

"Sandy did all that I asked of him," Marshall said. "He started on the defensive line but we moved him to the offensive line where he improved to be a good lineman."

Annunziata has fond memories of his days at Western.

"I really remember the camaraderie of the team was great," Annunziata said, from his home in Fort Erie. "London was a beautiful city. There are a lot of memories about Western, the championships, the trips down east, The Ceeps and the loss to Laurier in the Yates Cup."

Annunziata was part of Western's Vanier Cup team in 1989 and still remembers how he felt when he played in the SkyDome for the first time.

"1989 was the first time that the Vanier Cup was held in the SkyDome," Annunziata said. "There were 30,000 people at the game and a lot of hype surrounding it. It is one of my most memorable moments."

The coaches at Western had a great influence on Annunziata.

"I have nothing but respect for the coaches at Western," he said. "It is obvious the coaches are good by the record the teams have had over the years. Greg Marshall helped me a lot at Western. He was a player's coach that helped you gravitate to that next level."

In 1992, Annunziata was drafted by the Calgary Stampeders in the fifth round and later moved to Winnipeg where his career has soared. As far as the strength of the CFL, Annunziata sees the league as improving.

"They have been saying the CFL is dead since the '80s," Annunziata said. "The league is getting stronger and the alliance with the NFL can only help the league. It is a good game and is gaining respect as many American players cannot cut it in the Canadian game."

Annunziata says he enjoys playing in Winnipeg, adding the fan support has been incredible.

"The fans here are great," he said. "They love their football. I find there is more apathy in cities like Toronto and Hamilton. They don't appreciate the game because they have so many other sports to concentrate on. Winnipeg only has football and the fans treat you like gold."

Winnipeg has been a team in transition over the past few years but Annunziata sees great prospects for the upcoming season.

"We have a new quarterback in Kerwin Bell and a great running back in Cory Philpot," he said. "Dave Ritchie is a well established coach and will help our team. Ritchie looks to the run for success and gives the offensive line a chance to shine."

Annunziata admits he's looking south of the border for a possible opportunity in the NFL.

"The NFL looks for multi-talented players," Annunziata said. "They want people that can play special teams and can long snap which I can do. Size does help in the NFL and I play both guard and centre."

As far as the rigours of playing football, Annunziata still finds time to see his family.

"I live in Fort Erie during the off-season but during the year I am away for no more than three weeks at a time," he said. "We play a lot in Toronto and Hamilton so I get a lot of chances to go home."






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Copyright The Gazette 1999