It's not every day that the University of Ottawa, the City of Greater Sudbury and football all come together, in one fell swoop.
Mind you, it's not every day that proud Sudburians Perry Dellelce and Alex Trebek (along with his son, Matthew) have the chance to enjoy a glorious fall day of gridiron pleasure together in the nation's capital.
All of the above merged nicely at the 2019 Panda Bowl (the annual football showdown between the University of Ottawa Gee Gees and the crosstown rival Carleton Ravens), creating the genesis for the Alex and Matthew Trebek Gee-Gees football scholarship, an endowment that Dellelce has funded as a tribute to a very special day.
It turns out that the cross-connection of the Dellelce and Trebek families dated back well before their common studies in Ottawa. "His father, "George the Chef", worked at the Sorrento Hotel; he worked with my grandmother and my grandfather," said Dellelce.
"When we first met, on a phone call, a few years ago, I mentioned this to Alex. He took it from there, and spoke so graciously and was so kind about both Sudbury and my family. We had a bond, from that very first call."
It was a bond that has been reignited, from time to time, including with both gentlemen on hand, last fall, along with Matthew Trebek, enjoying some football as the post-secondary institution feted the long-time star of Jeopardy.
"I am chair of the alumni campaign at the University of Ottawa, and Alex is the honourary chair," Dellelce explained. "We spent two and a half hours, having a drink together, talking about Sudbury," said Dellelce. "My sister, Benita, was sending us pictures of Sudbury from those years, which led to a very robust conversation about the area."
"It was such a beautiful fall day, the Gee Gees won, and we were into the game. When I got home, I wanted to do something to kind of memorialize this day."
With the help of U of Ottawa Manager of Development Varsity Athletics Steven Drover, details for the annual scholarship, which will award $4500 annually to an Ottawa Gee Gees football player who has completed his high school studies in Sudbury or northern Ontario, emerged.
"Over the last number of years, the demands on student athletes is such that it's now almost a 12 month a year job," stated Drover. "There's the pressure of being a student, keeping your marks up, going to class, and then there's all the physical training - and off-season training and nutrition, and time spent in the study hall, academics, film studies and mental training."
"For student athletes, the opportunities to work outside of the training and school are really difficult," Drover added. "To have these scholarship monies available certainly helps take a big burden off of them, allowing them to concentrate on their sports, and most importantly, their academics."
Retired teacher and a member of the Ottawa Gee Gees Football Hall of Fame, long-time St Charles Cardinals coach Mike Fabiilli can relate. Always on the lookout for potential prospects with U Sport aspirations, he has been named an ambassador for the scholarship, working his network of local and northern contacts.
Fabiilli recognizes both the apprehension that local talent might have in taking the initiative in the recruiting process, all while appreciating those student-athletes with a clear-cut vision in mind.
"With recruiting now, kids have to get some game film ready, send in their tapes," he said. "I sometimes think these kids need to be persuaded a little. I was really impressed, reading that story about Ben Campbell (Mount Allison freshman), how he wrote letters to all of those coaches."
"I thought to myself, there's a boy that really wants to play. Sometimes, you find that diamond in the rough, just because of the extra work that they do," added Fabiilli, who was a classmate of Dellelce when the pair attended St Charles College in their teens.
"I really thought that we could do something that combines northern Ontario and Sudbury and football," Dellelce summarized. "What could be a better memory of this day than the scholarship."