The Hamilton Wildcats were a semi-pro team that was brand new in 1994. I was hired one week before the seaosn started. In game one, we fell behind 10-0. I scrapped my power running game and went to our warp-speed no-huddle. Full-force extreme passing. The pendulum swung all the way that day. Our no-playbook SWAT system transformed to an air attack. We won that game 36-10. We passed for 512 yards and 5 TDs and three 2-pt conversions. It was the start of a two-decade passing odyssey that has seed explosive performance by untalented, unrecruited, second-chance, last-chance players.
The Wildcats faced extreme adversity. In all likelihood, no football team in North America at any level faced bigger odds. And, to add to the overwhelming odds, I scrapped the schedule, moving us up to an American schedule that featured some of the strongest program in the USA. The Wildcats were foreigners…the only Canadian team versus established American semi-pro teams.
The season ended with a perfect 9-0 record featuring 4 last-minute miracle comebacks. The most incredible game was a 28-25 win over the vaunted Brooklyn Mariners, one of the top semi-pro teams since 1957. Coming into the game, Brooklyn had lost only 2 games in the last 6 years. But the Wildcats scored a last-minute TD pass, capping off an 82-yard drive with only 1:52 left in the game.
We recorded a perfect season with only 22 players. And we never kicked. Two of our players went on to long CFL careers. Four other either had tryouts or were recruited by other pro teams. The Wildcats went on on to record a 20-2 two-year record, shattering passing records in semi-pro/senior leagues. I was privileged to be the head coach and witness amazing moments.
The Wildcats are one of the many reasons why I have a hard time watching NFL games and taking the NFL seriously. I’m not an NFL fan. I have no interest in spoiled multi-millionaires playing a game that the rest of the world plays for free. I have no interest in pro athletes masquerading as adults tweeting juvenile nonsense on Twitter. I have zero interest in coaches acting like rank amateurs on the sidelines, during press conferences, and during handshakes. The NFL at times lowers itself to pro wrestling level. I have seen football played with the greatest respect for the sport by iron-willed athletes who won’t stop dreaming. I have seem my players spill their guts quietly, without trash-talking punk behaviour, for the love of a game that most will never profit from financially. But we all become rich – we made a fortune in memories.