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Charlottetown native part of SMU Hall of Fame-bound squad

SMU
SMU

Joe Arsenault felt like Rudy at times early in his collegiate football career playing with the juggernaut Saint Mary’s Huskies.

The Charlottetown native started the sport late in high school, but did enough during his time with the Island Construction Colonels to get on Blake Nill’s radar. The Saint Mary’s Huskies coach asked Arsenault if he considered collegiate football and before long the defensive end found himself training with a team with Vanier Cup aspirations in 2001.

“There were lots of times I felt like Rudy,’’ Arsenault said, referring to the movie based on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. “You’d take the big suck of air and walk down the hallway to look at the dress list. The first couple of years, obviously, the team’s stacked so it was tough, but when you’re on the list, right then and there, you’re in the zone.

The Huskies won the Vanier Cup in 2001 and repeated the feat in 2002. Arsenault will be in attendance on Sunday, as those two teams will be inducted in Saint Mary’s Sport Hall of Fame in Halifax.

“It’s a big celebration of what we accomplished together,’’ said Arsenault, a 36-year-old Toronto resident who is a regional manager for a medical device company.

“It was quite a unique experience,’’ added Arsenault, who played for the Huskies from 2001-2005. “These guys basically started building this team in 1998. They were kind of at their peak in 2001 when I was coming into the program.

Arsenault had to catch up with his peers who had played the game longer. He credited the coaches and his new Huskies teammates for working with him and for trainer Andy O’Brien getting him in top shape to compete for a spot.

Scott Annand was Arsenault’s defensive line coach for a couple of seasons at Saint Mary’s. The Truro, N.S., native said Arsenault was a very dedicated player on and off the field.

“He worked extremely hard at his craft,’’ Annand said. “It proves hard work pays off.’’

The Huskies beat up on a lot of teams in 2001 and while Arsenault wasn’t always on the field he remembers teammate Curtis Nash telling a Halifax newspaper Saint Mary’s scout team pushed them each day in practice to get better.

“We all contributed to it,’’ Arsenault said.

Both Arsenault and Annand are looking forward to reconnecting with their former teammates and coaching staff and sharing stories of their special run.

“It’s hard to believe it was that long ago,’’ said Annand, who was part of the Huskies coaching staff for nine years and is now his second season as the Saskatchewan Roughriders football operations co-ordinator. “It’s probably the greatest college football team in Canadian history.

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