By: Monty Mosher
Peter Fraser had to leave his native New Brunswick in order to come back home.
It's been a winding journey from Oromocto high school football to head coach of the Mount Allison Mounties football team.
"It's been an interesting path to get me to this point, for sure," he said this week.
Now 41, the former Ottawa Gee-Gees player spent eight years as an assistant coach with U Sports coach of the year Jeff Cummins and the Acadia Axemen before moving on to the University of Windsor, where he was defensive coordinator and associate head coach.
With the departure of Scott Brady in the fall after a 4-4 season that saw Mount Allison miss the playoffs, Fraser was announced as the 18th head coach in the program's history in late February.
He's been back and forth between Mount Allison and Windsor since, trying to get his affairs in order in both locations. He's trying to get packed up in Ontario while preparing to open spring football camp in New Brunswick next week.
It is relatively late start for a new football coach and Fraser has been busily trying to get up to speed. Assistant coaches Gaetan Richard and Chris Hopkins kept the recruiting drive going while the head coach selection process was completed and the team has been able to announce a handful of capable recruits.
Still, the new administration might need some time.
"Things were pretty much under control," Fraser said of the transition. "Coach Hopkins and Coach Richard did a good job of setting the table and getting some commits.
"I think 2019 is going to be huge for us. We have a pretty good class this year, but probably not where it needs to be. The five guys we announced recently are really good players, so we haven't lost a full year that's for sure. There's some quality there, which is the most important part."
Pierre Arsenault, Mount Allison's athletic director, said Fraser's name kept cropping up during the search process.
"To be able to sign him was a big win for our program," said Arsenault. "In the short time he has been here, he has already been able to bring leadership and direction for our program.
"We have been able to announce some recruits quickly and it is already evident that players and staff are responding very positively to Peter's arrival."
The Mounties, conference champions in 2013 and 2014, tied with St. Francis Xavier for third place, but lost the playoff spot on point differential in head-to-head play.
The team will have many quality veterans in running backs Kiel Ambursley and Chris Reid, receivers Malik Richards and Josh Hicks, linebacker Damian Halstead and defensive lineman Donovan Glave.
Fraser began his tenure by meeting with the returning players and his assistant coaches. That gave him a place to start.
It's his first time as a head coach since running a bantam team in Ontario. Being a U Sports head coach was always his ambition.
"I always wanted to try to get back to the East Coast in a head coaching capacity at some point," he said. "That's kind of the reason I left to go to Windsor was to build a resume. I didn't think from the platform at Acadia I would be able to be a head coach. It happened a lot quicker than I thought it was going to initially."
It will be odd at first to go against Cummins and the Axemen. Mount Allison visits Acadia on Sept. 15, which is the fourth weekend of the regular season.
"Coach Cummins is a big mentor of mine having worked six years with him. Sometimes you find yourself saying things to the players that he said. But when the ball is kicked off the competitive juices will start to flow. At that point you are just in a football game again."
It would be difficult for Fraser to know what kind of football team he'll have entering 2018. He doesn't have much to go on.
But what he does know is his veteran players didn't take missing the playoffs lightly.
"When you show up to play us, you better be ready to go," said Fraser, whose own playing days as a defensive lineman ended with a knee injury.
"We have a lot of tough, physical kids on the defensive side and special teams who love playing the game and are going to play hard. On the offensive side, we have a lot of playmakers."
The first goal for the Mounties will be to get back in the playoff mix. With the addition of the Bishop's Gaiters to the conference in 2017, the days of sneaking in at 2-6, even 3-5, are in the past.
"We're going to have a playoff mentality for every game because two teams don't make it. There's no taking any week off. Mount A didn't make it at 4-4 last year. Winning at home will be hugely important."
Training camp open Aug. 10. Mount A's season opener will be against Bishop's on Aug. 25 at Alumni Field.