Marcel Bellefeuille began his Gee-Gees career as a player during the 1985 season. The second chapter started when he rejoined the Gee-Gees as an Offensive Assistant Coach in 1995. Bellefeuille rose rapidly, on a journey to the top of football in Canada.
Marcel became the Gee-Gees head coach in 1998, continuing the tradition of nationally contending teams at uOttawa. In 1999, he was named the OQIFC Coach of the Year, setting up a magnificent Vanier Cup winning season in 2000.
Bellefeuille closed his Gee-Gees career with a 26-5 overall record and began a 17-year CFL career with Saskatchewan in 2001. The head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats from 2008-2011, Marcel has also worked on the offensive staff with Montreal, Winnipeg, and BC.
TOUCHDOWN DINNER INDUCTEE PROFILE: MARCEL BELLEFEUILLE
Leadership is a topic that Marcel Bellefeuille has considered carefully for his entire career. "It's about convincing a group of people to do what's in their best interest. uOttawa allowed me to set the basis for my entire career," says the 17-year veteran of the CFL coaching ranks whose approach to leadership was so crucial in his three-year build up to the 2000 Vanier Cup win.
"It's a different feeling as a coach when you know that you're going to win, and I knew," says Bellefueille of that 2000 championship. "During our pregame warmup at Laval for the OQIFC championship, our guys didn't even look at them. We were focused on ourselves."
Bellefeuille was the youngest coach [34 years old] to win the Vanier Cup when the Gee-Gees players hoisted the trophy at Skydome. He did it in his third season as a university head coach, but his links with the Garnet and Grey football program and the Ottawa football community already ran deep.
As a high schooler, Bellefeuille remembers watching the Gee-Gees play at Lansdowne park. In 1985 he represented Ridgemont in the high school all-star game, where he was coached and then recruited to uOttawa by Jim Daly. He remembers being "that guy that watched extra film, and had all the answers in meetings. I was adept at noticing organizational details - the basis of my coaching career was definitely there as a player with the Gee-Gees."
Before he would return to the Gee-Gees as the assistant running backs coach under Larry Ring in 1995, Bellefeuille coached high school football in Ottawa and won a championship, and coached the Ottawa Sooners. He would continue in those roles until taking over the Gee-Gees head coaching position for the 1998 season.
"I had a great affinity for the University. It was a seamless transition," says Bellefeuille of that time, noting that he had also logged visits with pro teams in the NFL and was actively honing his development as a coach. "When you're young and naïve you believe anything is possible - and I think that helped me."
In 1998 the Gee-Gees posted a 6-2 regular season record under their new head coach. The 1999 team went 8-0 before losing the Dunsmore Cup to Laval. "That was our most talented team athletically - we were a speed team. We hit a foot and a half of snow at Laval and it slowed us down, but that loss was our catapult."
"We took a strong look at the student-athlete leadership. We wanted to help them become better leaders. That component was crucial, and the leadership group understood the process."
The leadership kicked in when the 2000 team encountered would-be road blocks. A loss in the regular season meeting with Laval. Hec Crighton winning quarterback Phil Cote sidelined by injury in the Dunsmore Cup and backup quarterback James Baker starting the Churchill Bowl.
"I told James, we will go out and not change anything. We are going to let you throw the ball down the field and we fully expect to win. I told everyone in the media that the outcome would not hinge on Phil not playing," says Bellefeuille. "We were battle-tested by the time we got to Vanier."
"The Vanier holds a special place in my heart," affirms Bellefeuille. "You're so proud of the guys, and it validated all of the leadership lessons that we had ingrained."
That would be Bellefeuille's final win as the uOttawa head coach, as he spring-boarded into the CFL in 2001. "I got to the mountaintop in a way," he says of the Vanier Cup win. "Where is the next challenge? That's how I'm built."
17 CFL seasons with five teams lay ahead. After joining the Saskatchewan Roughriders staff in 2001 he was made offensive coordinator in 2003. He was the Head Coach of the Hamilton Tiger Cats from 2008-11 and most recently spent two seasons as receivers' coach at BC. Numerous Gee-Gees alumni have played for his CFL teams, starting when Jocelyn Frenette was drafted by Saskatchewan in 2001.
New stadiums, different fan bases, the advent of social media and the technological advances within the game have marked his path. One season as the offensive coordinator for the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL added another layer to his story.
"I've tasted it all in a way. Having done all that, uOttawa is still very much a part of me. It all took root for me as a person and as a professional during my time as a student."