A veteran assistant coach with the St. F.X. X-Men has garnered a prestigious honour.
Defensive line coach Dave Bance is the 2017 recipient of the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) Phil Hughes Award, which honours a volunteer coach who does not make their living with that university football role.
“It is a privilege. It is quite the honour and I was certainly surprised,” Bance, a long-time educator in Antigonish, said of the honour, adding he has “always enjoyed it [coaching].”
The St. F.X. alumnus, who was a five-year starter on the gridiron for the Blue and White, suited up for Hughes, also a former X-Men player and assistant coach.
Bance, who settled in Antigonish, has been on the X-Men’s coaching staff for 12 seasons.
Along with his sideline and practice duties, Bance attends morning workouts and assists with off-season training.
“I cannot think of a more worthy recipient of this award than Dave,” St. F.X. head coach Gary Waterman said in a press release.
“He takes great pride in working with his unit throughout the week and always comes to practice prepared.
“He is also a great asset to the team on game day as a positive presence on the X-Men sideline,” Waterman added.
Bance said he “truly enjoys working with Gary.”
“I love his approach with the program,” he added of the X-Men leader.
Speaking of coaches, the namesake of the conference honour – Phil Hughes – guided the St. F.X. offensive line, when Bance arrived on the Antigonish campus, as an 18-year-old, from Ottawa.
“It is a huge honour,” Bance said, noting the “pride” in the award’s connection to one of his mentors.
He added it is, probably, not a coincidence that he and former O-line teammates – Sam Moreau and Gord Beattie – have won the award, considering what they learned from Hughes.
“Phil had a great influence on us,” Bance said.
From his perspective, he noted, a unit coach, such as offensive line, becomes a “father figure,” of sorts, which was the case for him with Hughes.
“We, sometimes, forget about the challenge these young men face – not only in football, but also in life,” Bance said, noting the “culture shock” he experienced when he arrived in the smallest town in which he had ever lived.
“Being able to, hopefully, help them in that way, continues to motivate me to come in every day.”
With Bance’s honour, it marks the third straight season an X-Men assistant coach received the Phil Hughes Award, following Jim Daley (2016) and Bob Howes (2015).
Bance is now a nominee for the national Gino Fracas Award, which will be presented at the U Sports All-Canadian Football Awards Gala, Nov. 23, at the Hamilton Convention Centre.
“It is much appreciated,” he reiterated about the AUS recognition, while noting there are “so many volunteers” who make great contributions to St. F.X.’s varsity athletics.
“I call them the backbones of the programs,” Bance added.
Along with the honour for their assistant coach, the year-end conference awards for the X-Men program included all-star selections, on both sides of the ball,
Defensively, freshman end Jalen Burley, senior free safety Dylan Bell and senior halfback Nathaniel Fermin received nods, while sophomore Jonathan Zamora (centre) and senior Jacob Czaja (guard), along with junior receiver Kaion Julien-Grant, were offensive recipients.