Owen Jay and Other Heros Recollected
Joey, Lyncher, Fitz, Branch, Marker
Whiter, OWEN JAY "OJ," Sully, Herm, RickB
The Holland College v. University of New Brunswick football game was an exciting affair although the Hurricanes ran out of time and UNB dodged the defeat. The UPEI Alumni Field and the Turf Field are beautiful venues – quite a difference from Saint Dunstan’s athletic facilities in the 1960s. I recall the grass on the football field as Kelly green, soft and lush and the field as wide and long stretching to the railroad tracks and Belvedere. Pick-up football games could have never been called “sand lot.”
At the game and in the audience, many old footballers were on hand and ready to don the pads and execute a full contact game, perchance not in the form and style previously shown. Ruptured Achilles tendons, knee replacements, and C6-7 fusion would cause degradation of the previous high calibre of football that was earlier played. “Go long” could mean 25 yards.
But later while composing in the voguish ambience of “The Wave” in the W.A Murphy Student Centre, the memories about veteran teams and players were as sharp as if they played just yesterday.
Many old names were raised and discussed, sometimes humorously, sometimes warmly, sometimes admiringly. When the name of Owen Jay was brought to conversation, the gusto at the table peaked and the name was passed from person to person. Owen Jay stories arose in not only about the game in hand, football, but also in basketball.
Owen played during the era when the Atlantic Intercollegiate Athletics Association (AIAA), now the Atlantic University Sport, had peaked in several categories. During Owen’s era of 1964-69 including the last year of Saint Dunstan’s in 1968-69, the AIAA was highlighted by some fantastic individual players. Owen played basketball against the likes of former NBA player Brian Heaney (Acadia), former Canadian Olympic team member John Cassidy (Dalhousie), New York Knicks draftee Dave Nutbrown (UNB), and Al Brown (SMU) of the national championship all-tournament team. In Owen’s first year of basketball, Acadia with Heaney and Steve Konchalski (national championship MVP) won the Canadian national championship. In his third year, Owen was the fourth leading scorer in the AUAA to the All-Star degree. In his fourth year, SMU was national silver medalist. The league was super competitive and the talent was rich.
In football in the fall 1966, Owen played against Vanier Cup winners St. Francis Xavier and CFL great Paul Brule. Then in the fall 1967 season, though the Saints were 2-4, Jim Foley was second in the league in scoring, rushing, and MVP balloting and Owen was number one in the league in receiving yards. (Other Saint record holders were Norb Bartholemew in interceptions and Bob Driscoll in punt return average). The 1967 season set the stage for the 1968 season, the best in SDU history other than the 4-1 season in 1960, with the league divided into Section A and B (and SDU winning Section B). Owen continued his excellence in the fall 1968 season as he was voted as a league All-Star.
In fall 1968, playing along with Saint Dunstan’s All-Star Jim Foley (a junior), senior Owen Jay helped SDU to its best season in the undivided AIAA. SDU finished at 4-2 with one of the losses a heart breaker to SMU, 16-12. The Saints nearly pulled out the victory when Leon Berrouard recovered a SMU fumble at the SMU 32 yard line with about three minutes remaining. The Saints pushed forwarded, falling just inches short of a first down at the 23 yard line and surrendered the ball and the game to SMU. If SDU had won, SDU would have finished tied for first (5-1) in the AIAA but with the league title going to SMU on points for/points against. For that 1968 season, Owen, Jim Foley, Gary Mancuso, and Gerry Lajuenesse were voted as All-Stars on the AIAA All Star team.
Owen was strongly recruited by the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League but opted to pursue a Masters in Economics at Queens. Since he was a two sport athlete, Owen was the top overall contributor to Saint Dunstan's athletics’ successes during his four year pursuit at SDU. At that time, SDU was the smallest school, and the most remote, in the AIAA but was very competitive and most dependent on a few highest calibre athletes to overcome the lack of depth and experience. Owen filled the all-star status so well for the Saints earning Saint Dunstan’s the status of winners, competitors, and gentlemen.
One year I asked Coach Ed Hilton a rather sophomoric question. It may have been any of the four years, not just the second as the word seems to suggest. Coach Hilton was not only the coach but was also the example and mentor for many of us - often avuncular but also firm and strict. “Who’s your favorite player” I once asked - an awkward and blunt question. With little pause, he said “OJ.” “Why” I continued unabashed when I should have been the opposite. Coach Hilton replied “Because he asks no quarter and gives no quarter.” One basketball scrimmage, with me as a frosh or soph, Owen went up for a jump shot and I leapt to block and did force a miss but with a swipe on his palm. The whistle blew, and Coach Hilton asked, “Was there a foul?” Much satisfied that I forced a miss but still feeling guilty, I wondered what the response should be or might be. Owen gave the perfect reply, "He got me but they wouldn't of have called it." I felt like a competent player that had just been respected – not like some pretender that just had fouled the star. That's why Owen was thought of so admiringly. He knew how to handle situations and conduct himself. These behaviours have done so well for Owen in his life - a mentor and model for his friends besides being a university two-sport All Star and, in his adult life, earning the advanced degree in economics, and becoming a successful businessman.