Jordan Desilets did not necessarily seek out football.
Thankfully, football found him.
The 28 year-old ultra-friendly young man who guided the Sudbury Jr Spartans to an OSFL championship in August has spent the bulk of his life in the area, born in Elliot Lake but raised in Azilda.
Athletically inclined, Desilets would play hockey and basketball, compete in track – try pretty much everything - other than football. “Growing up with hockey, it never even occurred to me to go and play Joe Mac (Joe MacDonald Youth Football League),” he explained in the fall.
All of which is not to say that an interest in football did not exist.
A self-described “sports nerd stats guy” growing up, Desilets had taken to watching the NFL religiously – and more specifically, his beloved Philadelphia Eagles.
One can’t help but to wonder if there is a healthy element of fate that prevails in many a story-line similar to that of Jordan Desilets. The fact is a high-school football program existed at Bishop Alexander Carter Catholic Secondary School only for but a few years – years that just happened to cross-sect with the time that Desilets would spend there as a senior.
“Football was introduced at BAC in my grade 12 year,” said Desilets. “The second it came to BAC, I was in, hands down.”
While the school enjoyed a decent enough collection of raw athletes, it was only running back Anthony Campioni who had ever even strapped on a pair of football pads before. And yet still, there were moments: a 24-12 lead over the Chelmsford Flyers at half-time of their very first game, an encounter they eventually lost 25-24.
The Gators remained close at the half of their Division B semi-final with the Lively Hawks, a battle that took on much greater significance just a few years later when the coaching pathways of Jordan Desilets and Lively head coach Reg Bonin would cross, leading to what is now an outstanding working relationship and friendship.
Desilets was among those at BAC who could provide fans a little something to cheer about.
Even more important, on a team that was always short on numbers, came the realization that players had to be ready to suit up in each and every position on the field. For someone who had developed a genuine affinity for the chess game of moving parts that is professional football on Sundays, this new opportunity to understand every role on the field was a treasure trove of information.
Attending Laurentian University upon graduating from BAC, Desilets returned to his alma-mater to help coach. “I found a new love for football, one that is different from actually playing,” he said. “I was starting to see how much more emotional it is. I didn’t really have the X’s and O’s, but I knew you had to rely on each moving piece.”
Call it fate; call it pure luck; but a Rights and Law class at L.U. would subsequently connect Desilets with Adam Ferris, a graduate of the Lively program who had returned to help both with the Hawks as well as that summer’s edition of the Sudbury Jr Gladiators. “I was approached about coaching the defensive backs; it was completely overwhelming,” said Desilets.
A tad tentative to begin with, Desilets would be swayed in part by the parental support he received, the couple recognizing all that he had to offer to the game. That passion for football was equally obvious to coach Bonin, the man who would oversee the Jr Glads. “It was easier for me with the junior varsity team,” said Desilets.
“Some of these kids were just coming into football. It was a good adjustment for me. We were sitting at Eddie’s after a Glads’ playoff win in 2018 and Reg asked me about coaching with him in the fall.”
Bonin has long been recognized for his ability to create growth within his athletes on the field. Jordan Desilets would provide him a slightly different challenge. “I think he once told me that if he couldn’t coach me as a player, then he was going to do his best to mould me as a coach,” said Desilets.
For those who have interacted with both, the similarities are evident from the start. At a school whose numbers are dwarfed by some of their much larger competitors, the Lively staff have found a way to engrain football as a way of life with an impressive percentage of their male student body. More impressive is the fact that, more often than not, they go toe to toe with the contenders.
Listen to Desilets recount some of the keys to the Jr Spartans triumph of 2022 and you glean facets from his coaching foundation in Lively. “You want to have a relationship with every player on the team,” he said. It was a theme that emerged as player after player discussed what made this season special.
“What I have come to realize now is just how much I motivated the kids,” said Desilets. “No one believed that we could do this – and the kids fed off that.”
Already, he is looking forward to 2023.
Jordan Desilets may not have sought out football, per se, but now that the bond has been made, it’s unlikely to be broken any time soon.