There is one thing that new Carleton Ravens football coach Corey Grant likes to emphasize when he talks about student-athletes.
“They’re students,” he said. “We are here to provide the best possible path to success for them, not just on the football field, but in the classroom and in life. We are preparing them for their future.”
Grant, was hired in March and comes with experience as both a player and coach at the U SPORTS and CFL levels. A native of Hamilton, he played university football at Laurier before embarking on an 11-year CFL career as a wide receiver with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Montreal Alouettes and Saskatchewan Roughriders that included two Grey Cup rings. After retiring, he spent two years as a wide receivers coach at McMaster University, then joined the Tiger-Cats on their staff for six years, and then went back to McMaster to be their offensive co-ordinator from 2019-21.
“When we did our exit interviews at McMaster after last season, I told the head coach that if a head coaching opportunity came up I would probably apply for it,” he said.
Grant first learned about the opening at Carleton in a group chat.
“My first thought when I saw the job posting was that it was really interesting,” he said. “I decided to apply for it. I went through the interview process and was offered the position. I had talked it over with my wife, as it was a big decision to relocate our family. But we knew that if I was to land a head coaching position we would have to move. I hope to be here in April while my wife and children will be moving up here after the school year.”
While the opportunity to become a head coach with a solid program was enticing for Grant, one factor that really intrigued him was the existing stable of varsity head coaches at Carleton.
“That was one of the things that attracted me to Carleton,” Grant said. “In the Carleton athletics building, there is sports royalty and excellence. There is a culture of winning. It excites me as a first-year head coach to be a part of it. I am so eager to take it all in.”
Grant said he has already met legendary basketball coach and Director of Basketball Operations Dave Smart, men’s soccer coach Kwesi Loney and Ravens men’s basketball coach Taffe Charles. He is looking forward to meeting the other Ravens coaches.
“There is incredible leadership in that building, from Jennifer Brenning and Dalton Myers to the coaches,” Grant said. “There is a commitment that starts at the top and goes all the way down. That is the standard across the board.”
While Grant is joining an established culture of success at Carleton, he is also looking to put his own personal stamp on the culture of the football program. Getting to know his players is an important first step.
“It starts with building relationships,” Grant said. “The players have to know that they are going to get pushed, and they are going to get challenged, and that is both as a player, and as a student-athlete. I also want the players to know they can trust me, and I will be honest with them. I want to learn from them what it means to be a Raven.”
Grant added that it is crucial for both veteran and new recruits to buy into his vision for the program.
“They will have to fit into the culture,” Grant said of his players. “They will have to be hard-working individuals who want to learn and want to be coached.”
Identifying players who will fit into that culture will be a focal point of recruiting.
“We want talented players, but we are looking for those intangibles,” Grant said. “They have to know that when you come here, you are going to be pushed. We want players that will face that challenge.”
While winning a Vanier Cup is the ultimate goal for Grant and the Ravens, Grant says that there are other successes he also wants to see with the program.
“Success is multi-faceted,” Grant said. “We work with student-athletes. Success is when they leave. How have we helped them get to their next career? Are they coming back and contributing to the program?
“The other piece to measuring success is wins and losses,” Grant added. “We keep score. But beyond the wins and losses, the student-athletes will tell us what their successes are. I want players who will go back to their friends or go back into their community and speak highly of the program. How they feel and how they speak about the program are big indicators of our successes.”
The Ravens have been practicing throughout the winter and are preparing for spring camp. Grant will get a firsthand chance to see who the Ravens are, and where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
“I’m the new guy, and I will be doing a lot more watching and learning than coaching,” he said. “I don’t want to come in and change everything on the fly. It wouldn’t be fair to the players, to the coaches, or to myself.”
When camp opens for the 2022 football season, Grant will be focusing on coaching. It’s what he loves to do.
“I started coaching in my second year of playing for the Tiger-Cats,” he said. “I was coaching at the youth level with an OVFL team. I realized that it’s what I really wanted to do after I was done playing.”
Being a former university and pro player, as well as having coaching experience at both levels, have helped prepare Grant for his new role at Carleton.
“When I joined the Tiger-Cats as a coach, I realized how much I didn’t know,” he said. “It was a great experience for me and helped develop my strengths as a coach. Things are a bit different at the university level. At the University level, athletes are working towards becoming professionals and I have the opportunity to be an integral part of that development.”
The other piece of the equation for Grant will be his role in the community, representing Carleton University and the Ravens football program. He has always been a community person and has done a lot of speaking and has sat on numerous boards.
“The easiest way to get into the community is to knock on doors,” he said. “I am very committed to community outreach, and using my network to build relationships.”