The Holland Hurricanes have turned to a familiar face to lead the Charlottetown-based school’s football program.
Summerside native and former Hurricane Owen MacWilliams is the interim head coach of the Atlantic Football League (AFL) team. He replaces Steve Letner, who recently stepped down. Letner was the head coach for the 2019 season after serving as an assistant coach five years prior.
“It’s odd because I am still feeling young, and it hasn’t been that long since I have been in the program as a player,” said the 29-year-old MacWilliams, who helped the Hurricanes win AFL championships in 2011, 2013 and 2014. “It’s exciting to move forward.”
MacWilliams was an AFL all-star all three years and the team’s most valuable lineman. He played the centre and guard positions.
“I wasn’t blessed with fast straight-line speed, so I got stuck in the middle,” said a chuckling MacWilliams.
Holland College's director of athletics and recreation, Albert Roche, said the school’s athletic department is excited to have MacWilliams take over the reins.
“Owen has been around since the inception of our program as a former student-athlete of Holland College,” said Roche in a media release. “He brings a focused approach to player development, student-athlete discipline and academic success.
“We are confident he will create a positive atmosphere where all players will be pushed to achieve their potential, and our football program will continue to grow.”
MacWilliams, a certified strength and conditioning coach, enters his new position with a familiarity with the Hurricanes after serving as an assistant coach and offensive co-ordinator for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
“Right now, it’s communicating with the guys, getting back into the swing of things and keeping building that structure within the program, and see what we can do,” said MacWilliams in discussing his priorities. “Hopefully, we can practise in January.”
Did you know?
- Owen MacWilliams began his football career with the Summerside Clippers’ varsity team in his Grade 12 year at Three Oaks Senior High School.
- MacWilliams went on to play intercollegiate football with the Holland Hurricanes of the Atlantic Football League, Laurier Golden Hawks and the Acadia Axemen at the U Sports level.
- As a player, MacWilliams was invited to the eastern regional combine for the Canadian Football League (CFL).
MacWilliams is optimistic about the Hurricanes’ future. He said he wants to continue building on a solid foundation during a phone interview with the Journal Pioneer.
“With the strong group we have coming back, there are a lot of leaders,” said MacWilliams.
Every head coach in football is known for having their traits, such as being more of an offensive or defensive coach. Based on his experience on the offensive line and offensive co-ordinator, MacWilliams acknowledged he will be an offensive-minded head coach.
“It’s probably not going to be a secret because I’m an O-lineman, but we are going to run the ball,” said MacWilliams. “We are going to be very efficient at that. I think that’s very crucial, especially in Canadian ball.”
A product of the P.E.I. Varsity Tackle Football League's Summerside Clippers, MacWilliams stresses he wants to provide opportunities to Island players.
“I want to make sure the Island guys understand the opportunities we are trying to build here," said MacWilliams. "Hopefully, they become a part of it.
"It’s kind of sad when you see Island kids go off-Island to play high school or university.”
MacWilliams said there is a lot of quality Island talent graduating from the varsity league this year and next season.
“It is important to show those guys if they don’t want to go to university, they can take the college route,” said MacWilliams.
Jason Simmonds is the sports reporter for the Journal Pioneer.