Interview Conducted by James Macfarlane
One of UCC’s newest staff members, Mr. Christian Heffernan, is a true jack-of-all-trades. In addition to being a certified teacher, Heffernan has been a sports camp director, a high school football coach, an Atlanta Brave, a Toronto Argonaut and a speeding Mustang. He has now come to UCC to teach us both in the classroom (as a math teacher) and on the field (as our new Varsity Football Special Teams/Assistant Offensive Coordinator). I caught up with our modern-day renaissance man over lunch last week, where he shared some of his life experiences with me. Enjoy. JM: So, my younger brother Cole is in one of your Y2 Math classes. He comes home his first day and says that he’s got a new teacher, Mr. Heffernan, who sounds like an interesting guy. He says that you used to play in some professional sports leagues. I’m intrigued, so I flip open my computer and google you, which brings me to my first question. How does it feel to be the only staff member here with a Wikipedia page.
CH: For the record, I didn’t know that (it existed). I didn’t make it, I have no idea who made it, it probably came from when I was playing football. Some of the kids at the other school I taught googled it, some even tried to add certain things to (the Wikipedia page), so I had to keep an eye on it, make sure nobody tried to say anything inappropriate. It’s interesting, to say the least.
JM: There are some interesting things on that page, the first being your four years with the Atlanta Braves. Tell us a few things about that experience.
CH: I come from a baseball family. My brother, cousin, dad and uncle all played professional or Division-I college baseball, so I was raised to play. I was successful at being noticed by a number of major league teams and the Atlanta Braves took a chance on me. I played for four years down in the southern parts of the United States and it was a really good experience as an 18-, 19-year old kid. I also ended up getting my university paid for out of my contract.
JM: Did you ever get the chance to play with guys like Chipper Jones and John Smoltz?
CH: I played with Rafael Furcal, Wilson Betemit and Ryan Langerhans, who are all currently still playing. I met Chipper Jones, but the highlight of my playing career was playing centerfield for one game while Greg Maddux pitched. It was in the Minor Leagues during Spring Training and he didn’t want to go down to Miami for the day so he pitched for our team. He pitched 6 or 7 innings and I was his centerfielder. For one day I was Greg Maddux’s teammate. It was great.
JM: After your baseball career, you played four years with the Toronto Argonauts.
CH: Actually, after baseball I went to Western because I needed to get a university education. I played football and I had never played before so I walked on and tried out. I made it, started, played for five years there and ran track as well. We were very successful at both. We won a number of different Canadian championships with our relay team. We still hold the 4×4 Canadian record. We had a really great group of sprinters and a great coach. Then after that, I was lucky enough to get a chance with the Argos. I was originally drafted by the Ottawa Renegades but they folded, so the Argos picked me up. I played two years there and then I was released. Then, I started teaching.
JM: Which brings me to my next question. Once you were out of football, what inspired your transition to teaching?
CH: I always knew I was going to teach. My first year at Western I started working at a sports camp. I started with the little kids, then in my second year I got promoted to head of the track program. I was working with young guys and girls and I knew that it was something I wanted to get into. I geared my degree toward teaching then when I was done, I got released from the Argos and went straight to teacher’s college. I got a job down in London straight out of teacher’s college and I taught there for three years, teaching math, history and phys-ed.
JM: So what made you want to come to UCC?
CH: A number of things. First of all my girlfriend lives up here, so that gave me a reason to start looking. I was at a good school down there and I had no intentions of going to a lesser school. UCC is the top academic school in the country. They have good resources for everything, whether it’s academics, athletics or arts. I pulled a couple strings and dropped a couple names and got an interview. Then, I was fortunate enough that it worked out and I got hired. It’s an amazing place, I’m still running around with my head cut off trying to learn as much as I can about it. Sometimes I feel more confused than some of the Y1s.
JM: There’s been some chatter amongst the students that you were once a Navy SEAL…
CH: (laughs) I was never a Navy SEAL, despite the rumours. I might train like one, despite the fact that I’m done with playing sports. I train very hard and some of the stuff is military-type training, so maybe that’s why some people assume I was once a Navy SEAL. But no, I have no military background.
JM: Thanks for your time
CH: Appreciate it.
(Photo courtesy of the University of Western Ontario)