Three years of chasing down running backs, quarterbacks, and wide receivers.
Of avoiding offensive linemen as big as refrigerators.
Of traveling to places like Texas, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington.
Of film study, and defensive playbook study, to go along with his studies in kinesiology.
In one swift announcement, a fourth year of college football for Vernon’s Dayton Ingenhaag was put in turmoil.
Ingenhaag, 21, is a middle linebacker with Burnaby’s Simon Fraser University Red Leafs. The university announced Tuesday, April 4, it was disbanding its storied football program.
“I had no idea this would happen,” said Ingenhaag, 21, a graduate of the Fulton Maroons’ high school football program in Vernon, who played three seasons for the Red Leafs. “The Lone Star (conference) told us not to come back but I didn’t think it would come to this.”
SFU is the only Canadian university that plays in the United States’ NCAA ranks against American schools. The Red Leafs went 1-8 in the Lone Star Conference in 2022 and were told by the conference their football affiliation would not be renewed past the 2023 season.
SFU president Joy Johnson – while waxing poetic about the school being “proud of our long football history, student-athletes, coaches, and alumni” – announced the end of the varsity football program Tuesday, April 4,
“This is a difficult decision, and not one taken lightly. With the recent announcement that the team has not been invited to continue in the Lone Star Conference, we do not have a conference to play in beginning in 2024,” said Johnson. “The ongoing uncertainty creates an unacceptable experience for students. The university has carefully considered all available options and as a leadership team we concluded that football is no longer a feasible sport for SFU.”
Ingenhaag led SFU in 2022 in tackles with 35 solo and 36 assisted for 71 total in 10 games. He also forced one fumble. He had a season-high eight tackles in a 24-0 loss to the No. 2-ranked team in the country, the Angelo State Rams of San Angelo, Texas.
He said he and teammates found out Monday, when news of the football program’s demise was leaked to the media. Speculation among Red Leafs teammates, he said, was that the report would not come to fruition.
“Tuesday, before noon, the school officially broke the news to us,” said Ingenhaag. “It’s pretty tough. I put a lot of work and years into this program. It was tough to hear.”
Ingenhaag has two more years of playing eligibility. He is on an athletic scholarship to SFU. The university, he said, told him if he chooses to stay at SFU, he would get a scholarship for one academic year.
He is exploring his options, he said, as he wants to continue playing football.
Three other Vernon players were slated to start their college football careers with SFU in the fall of 2023.
Griff Morrier, 18, of the Fulton Maroons, and Mitchell Bond, 17, and Scotty Hoffman, 18, from the Vernon Panthers were all recruited to the Red Leafs squad for 2023.
Each of them are now looking for other options including different schools or possibly the junior football ranks.
“I really liked everything during the couple of visits I had,” said Bond, who was recruited to play wide receiver for SFU. “There was a real family vibe. I liked the campus, and the programs that the school had. The football team itself was very appealing to me. The coaches were super awesome. They made me feel welcome.”
Hoffman, recruited to SFU as a linebacker, said he’s been thrown a curveball with the news.
“I was really confused. It’s the last thing I expected the program would do,” he said. “I figured they’d do everything possible to keep the football program going.”
Morrier had been recruited to the Red Leafs as a middle linebacker, a potential understudy to Ingenhaag. He felt blindsided, he said, by the announcement.
“It came out of left field,” said Morrier, who was convinced to sign with SFU following a campus visit. “I loved the NCAA aspect, the higher competition. The coaches were great, they really made me feel part of everything.”
SFU has had a football team since 1965. Among its graduates into the Canadian Football League include the likes of B.C. Lions legends Lui Passaglia, Rick Klassen, Nick Hebeler, Glen Jackson, and Sean Millington.
Three-time Lions CFL West all-star, and two-time Grey Cup champ, Angus Reid, 46, played his college ball at SFU. He’s now an assistant coach with the Vernon Panthers high school program.