For the first time in the school’s history, the Saint Mary’s Huskies will be retiring one of their former student athlete’s jerseys.
The Halifax university announced Thursday that all-star quarterback Chris Flynn’s #1 will be retired at a ceremony in early October when homecoming celebrations take place.
Flynn, originally from Buckingham, Que., was integral in turning around the Huskies’ football franchise in the late 1980s. During his tenure with SMU, Flynn led the team to four Atlantic University Sport championships and two Vanier Cup appearances. He was also the only player to be named the most valuable player in Canadian university football three times, all while maintaining status as a three-time All-Canadian.
For Flynn, the honour represents years of hard work and tenacity during his university playing career and beyond.
“It’s pretty crazy. It’s a huge honour,” said Flynn, who now lives in Ottawa and works in sales. “It’s obviously not something that Saint Mary’s or any other universities has really done … so it’s a pretty cool honour.”
When Flynn first arrived at SMU the Huskies hadn’t had a winning season in 13 years. In his first year as Huskies quarterback, he led the team all the way to the Atlantic Bowl.
“I just decided I wanted to try to go there and help the team turn things around. It was very exciting at that time, especially for those players that had been there for a few years and hadn’t won before,” he said.
After his playing career at SMU, Flynn went on to play for the Montreal Machine, then competed in Europe for four years. He finished off his football career with the Ottawa Rough Riders at the end of the ’96 season, only to return to Halifax the next year to complete his bachelor of arts in psychology.
Flynn was the first-ever Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) player to be inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and was also voted the #1 CIS player of the past 50 years of Canadian university football by Sportsnet.ca.
Current Saint Mary’s athletics director Scott Gray says though the particulars of how Flynn’s number will be displayed are not yet finalized, it will be revealed as “a special once-in-a-lifetime recognition of this jersey retirement.”
Gray notes that retiring Flynn’s jersey was something he’s wanted to do since entering his role a year and a half ago.
“He was before his time a little bit in the style of his play, his athleticism, and the way he commanded the game,” said Gray. “With everything in the world going at a future pace, it’s great to reach back to our past and celebrate the historic accomplishments of a true champion of Saint Mary’s University.
“It’s a strong piece of our history that we don’t want to forget.”
For longtime Huskies equipment manager Paul Mason, October’s jersey retirement will just be a formality. For the past 30 years, he’s made it his mission to ensure no other Huskies football player dons the #1.
“I unofficially retired the jersey out of respect and honour to Chris, considering he was the most valuable and exciting player in Canada for three years. He literally turned our program around,” said Mason.
But keeping the #1 off the backs of the Huskies didn’t come easy. Mason said some players were interested in wearing the number but he had to turn them down.
“We usually try to accommodate incoming players with the number they prefer but we always basically deferred the #1, saying that number is unofficially retired,” said Mason.
“But now it will be officially retired.”
Flynn will return to Halifax in October to be a part of the ceremony and festivities. He’s looking forward to reconnecting with his old teammates and other alumni that were a part of his Huskies success.
“As you get older you see less of your old teammates. Even though this is a ceremony for me, it is really a team award. Had we not been winning, my jersey would not be retired. It’ll be a good excuse for a reunion,” said Flynn.