Five local players are among 10 former Queen’s Gaels players to be inducted into the Queen’s Football Hall of Fame.
The inductees were announced this week on Queen’s University’s social media channels.
Local players include running back Mike Giffin, slotback and kick returner Rob Bagg and wide receiver Scott Valberg of Kingston, offensive lineman Matt O’Donnell, who was born in Comox, B.C., but played high school football in Kingston, and defensive back Curtis McLellan of Sydenham.
The other inductees were Jimmy Allin, Scott Bissessar, Thaine Carter, Brad Smith and quarterback Danny Brannagan, who led the Gaels to a come-from-behind 33-31 victory over the Calgary Dinos in the 2009 Vanier Cup.
Bagg, a graduate of Frontenac Secondary School, was a two-time team captain for Queen’s and was respected by his teammates for his work ethic and grit, a Queen’s news release said. “An incredible route runner with great hands, he was a threat that could take over a game at any moment as a receiver and returner.”
Bagg broke the school record in 2006 for most receptions in a season, as well as the most all-purpose yards in a season, highlighted with a record-tying 104-yard TD reception. That year, he won the Offensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards for Queen’s.
In 2007, Bagg was a second-team all-Canadian and led the Gaels in receptions and receiving yards.
Bagg said the induction gave him a chance to think about the people who helped him in his football career.
“I refer back to the coaches at Frontenac,” he said. “Without them, I really would have never played the game.”
He said the induction is as much for those people that helped him as him.
“Some of the memories of Queen’s for me was (coach) Gordie McLellan coming out on his free time when he could have been at a golf course or a lake out in Sydenham, and he was out there working the Jugs machine (automatic ball thrower) making sure I could get my reps in,” he said.
“It’s those guys that were selfless and volunteered to allow me to have this sort of success.”
Giffin, a former Bayridge Blazer, was a two-time all-Canadian, in 2007 and 2008, and was the first Gael to rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season. He led Ontario University Athletics in rushing yards in both ’07 and ’08.
He won the Gaels MVP trophy in 2007 and 2008, the Queen’s Sportsmanship and Leadership award in 2007 and the OUA Hec Crighton winner as the Most Outstanding Player in ’08. Giffin also set 10 school records throughout his career.
Both Bagg and Giffin went on to Canadian Football League careers, Bagg with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, winning a Grey Cup in 2013 to highlight his 11-season career, and Giffin with the Montreal Alouettes, winning a pair of Grey Cups in a five-year career.
In retirement, Bagg and Giffin have teamed up off the field, along with agent Korinne Peachey, selling real estate with Kingston’s Royal LePage ProAlliance.
“It’s a new team. The field is different but the game is the same,” Bagg said. “It’s all about hustle and showing up on time.”
O’Donnell, a graduate of the Holy Cross Crusaders, used his size and strength to help solidify a dominant offensive line for Queen’s, the release said.
He was a first-team all-Canadian, in 2009 and 2010, a two-time Queen’s Offensive Lineman of the Year as well as the OUA Metras Trophy recipient as the conference’s Most Outstanding Lineman in 2010.
O’Donnell played two years with the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals before playing for Edmonton in the CFL, winning a Grey Cup in 2015.
Defensive back McLellan, a Sydenham Golden Eagles graduate, was a leader on a dominant defence in 2002 and 2003, said the release said.
McLellan’s father, Gord, played for the Gaels in the early 1970s and was inducted into the hall in 2000.
Curtis McLellan was a second-team OUA all-star in 2002 and a first-team all-Star in 2003. In 2003, he won the defensive player of the year award for outstanding academics and community service for the Queen’s Gaels.
The four-time academic all-Canadian set the school record in 2003 for most tackles in a career with 109 and ranks in the top 10 in many other defensive statistics.
Valberg, a graduate of the Bayridge Blazers, was known for his route-running ability and was a weapon in the Gaels’ 2009 Vanier Cup championship run. He led the country in receiving yards in 2008 and 2009 as well as receiving touchdowns both seasons and was a two-time all-Canadian in those seasons.
He was named Most Dedicated Player in 2008, and in 2009 was Offensive Player of the Year and won the Queen’s Sportsmanship and Leadership award.
He caught two touchdown passes in both the Yates Cup and Vanier Cup in 2009.
Valberg finished his career second in career receiving yards (2,917), second in receptions in a career (152), and second in receiving touchdowns in a career (21) at Queen’s.
Also inducted into the hall are four teams: the 2009 Vanier Cup champion and the 1922, 1923 and 1924 Grey Cup champions.
The individuals and teams will be honoured at the annual Gael Force Initiative, a virtual event, on Saturday, May 8.
The Hall of Fame was established in 1983 and, including the 2021 inductees, currently has 141 inducted players over eight eras, 36 builders and eight teams.