It seems like only yesterday London's Ryan
Thelwell was starring in football, volleyball, basketball and
track at Catholic Central high school. His Big Ten Conference
heroics with the University of Minnesota still see him ranked as
the Gophers' No. 5 all-time receiver.
Now, the 37-year-old is leaving a decade-long CFL career to
pursue a career as an account manager with Devani Management
Group - and to heal the bumps and bruises which eventually
catch up with every great professional athlete.
"It has been an honour to be part of the Canadian Football
League and to have had the opportunity to represent two great
organizations," said Thelwell during his retirement announcement
January 25 at the Calgary Stampeders' McMahon Stadium. He was
joined by his wife, Liz, daughters Amari and Riann, and
A B.C. Lions receiver 2001-06, Thelwell signed with the Stamps
as a free agent in 2007. After starring at CCH 1987-93, the
native of Montego Bay, Jamaica left for Minnesota and was
drafted in the 7th round by the San Francisco 49ers, as well as
in the second round by the Lions. Following short stints with
the San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers, Thelwell began
a successful CFL career. He amassed 6,716 receiving yards on 441
receptions, scored 39 touchdowns and won a Grey Cup with B.C.
(2006) and Calgary (2008).
Early in his career, Thelwell and I had a long conversation
about the life of a professional athlete, and he couldn't have
been a more down-to-earth person, putting it all into
perspective as perfectly as he caught passes in the CFL. Lions
fans nicknamed him, "Automatic," because they expected him to
catch anything thrown to him.
But life throws you curveballs. He has openly discussed his
battle against depression (he's doing fine now). In 2009, he
suffered a torn Achilles and endured challenging rehab. But it
only made him tougher - he had fought tougher battles than that
- and he returned for 13 games, 12 receptions (including a
major) and even more respect from his teammates and coaches.
"As an organization, we appreciate the contributions Ryan
provided to the Stampeders over the past four years," said
Stamps head coach/general manager John Hufnagel. "He helped us
win a Grey Cup . and was always a consummate professional."
A CFL West Division all-star in 2004 and '05, Thelwell wrote on
his blog that winning two Grey Cups put him among good company.
"When it comes to standout moments, the easy thing to say is the
Grey Cups, and that's true. There are not many people who can
say they've actually won the Grey Cup and held it and drank from
it, and I've been able to do it twice.
"But for me," wrote Thelwell, "what stood out was when my first
daughter was born. That was in 2003 and we were in Montreal. I
couldn't be there for the birth but I got to listen on the phone
and I was so excited just listening on the phone that I didn't
realize I had locked myself out of my room and I was in my
underwear. I'll always remember that and we joke about it now."
For the record, Thelwell scored a touchdown and gained close to
100 yards the next day against the Alouettes.
"I have no complaints and no reservations. I played for 10
years and there aren't a lot of people who can say that," said
Thelwell during his media conference.
Speaking for the last time as a Stampeder, Thelwell said, "I
think football has taught me a lot and those are lessons I can
bring with me in my next career. It should be fun."
Not automatic - but challenging and fun, as Thelwell begins a
new chapter in his life.