NANAIMO — After reaching the pinnacle of junior football as players, a pair of alumni have been tabbed to pass on the "Raider Way" to the next generation.
This week, Nanaimo's Canadian Junior Football League franchise announced offensive line coach Curtis Vizza as its new head coach and defensive line coach Josh Williams as the new general manager.
Vizza takes over from Doug Hocking, who stepped down from the role after the 2018 season to spend more time with his family. Williams meanwhile is taking on managerial duties to allow executive Glenn Cook more time to focus on football and business operations with the club.
Vizza and Williams bring an impressive pedigree, both winners of multiple national championships and all-Canadian awards as hulking linemen during the Raiders' glory days.
Williams said it was an easy transition for him to move from player to alumni to coach and board member.
"I wanted to start giving back even more. Success is built in numbers and moving forward we need to keep growing our organization and get all hands on deck. I wanted to step up and be more than a positional coach and a part-time board member."
Just days into his tenure as general manager, Williams was surprised to discover his first task would be to replace his head coach. He said Vizza's name came to forefront immediately.
"I was excited we had a guy right in our back yard to take it on. We could have hummed and hawed and waited for a month and gone through a search process but picking the guy right now and having him hit the ground running, that's going to mean success for us moving into 2019 with a full head of steam."
He said Vizza brings organizational and leadership skills, as well as a teaching background.
"He knows how to rally people to perform to the best of their abilities."
Vizza, who spent four years playing with the Raiders from 2006 to 2009, served as offensive line coach for the last five seasons. He has extensive experience working as a strength and conditioning coach for teams at Vancouver Island University and within the local school district. He has an education degree and is currently working on his masters in educational leadership.
Filling the shoes left empty by Hocking will be no easy task, Vizza said, pointing to the departing coach as a mentor and hugely important figure in his own development.
"I'm looking at being an organizational leader...I bring a different energy to it. Coach Hocking brought all the experience and I can't make up that experience but I'm going to bring energy, a lot of focus and some different ideas to continue to build on what he's done," Vizza said.
Formerly a hockey player who needed to be taught how to strap on football shoulder pads as a rookie in 2006, Vizza said he's honoured to take on the new role.
"It was a chance to have a significant role with a team and really an entire sport that changed my life. I'm hoping to give that to other young men out there."
Vizza and Williams both referenced a need to re-connect with Raiders alumni across the country, using connections far and wide to boost recruiting efforts while also focusing on grooming local talent.
On Twitter: @domabassi
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