When he signed on as head coach and director of football operations of the Prince George Kodiaks two summers ago, Keon Raymond figured he’d be around the city well beyond the team’s inaugural season in the B.C. Football Conference.
It didn’t work out that way.
Raymond and the Kodiaks have severed their ties and the former CFL all-star defensive back and two-time Grey Cup champion with the Calgary Stampeders won’t be fulfilling the remaining time on his multi-year contract.
The Kodiaks played their first season as an expansion team in the BCFC and finished sixth in the seven-team conference with a 1-9 record.
Part of the job description as director of football operations for the junior football team is to develop grassroots football with the Kodiaks K-7 youth football league and build a source of future junior football talent through promotion of the Prince George high school football league and the club’s elite high performance off-season training programs.
Raymond did not make a permanent move to Prince George, as the club believed he would when he was hired. He and his family continued to make their home in Calgary, where he resided half the year and Kodiaks president Craig Briere says that affected his time and ability to develop football in the region.
“Originally the intent was that there would be a relocation and obviously, due to a number of factors, that wasn’t really feasible, so at the end of the day that certainly impacted the capacity to fill that role,” said Briere.
“When we hired Keon we hired him for a specific role and part of it was director of football operations and at the end of the season we took a review and tried working with Keon to revise the contract to better meet the needs of the team at the end of the day we weren’t able to come to an agreement that met the needs of both parties, so the executive made the decision to go in a different direction.”
Twenty-six of the 85 players aged 18 -23 the Kodiaks recruited this season were from Prince George. Briere says ideally the team should be adding 10-15 high school graduates from the region who are well-seasoned in the game which will eventually give the Kodiaks between 50 and 60 local players.
“Really, the emphasis of that position was to develop local northern players and northern coaches, so we need to find someone who can fulfill those needs because the long-term success of the Kodiaks is not by bringing players in from out of town or out of province, it’s from developing our own players within,” said Briere.
The Kodiaks head coaching job is a paid position, which Briere says is rare in the Canadian junior football ranks and he said that will help the club find a quality replacement.
Raymond brought with him from Calgary three former Stampeder teammates who served as assistant coach with the Kodiaks - defensive co-ordinator Marvin Pope, receivers/pass game coach Sedderick Cunningham and defensive backs coach Milt Collins. Local coaches Brad Paakkonen, Sean Yeulet, Cam and Sheldon Brown, and Calvin Sandheim were also with the team. With Raymond no longer with the team, there will be more changes coming to the staff.
The Kodiaks played five home games at Masich Place Stadium and averaged crowds of about 1,800.
Two Kodiaks players – offensive lineman Will St. Hubert and defensive back Keon Raymond II (the coach’s son) -- were selected to the BCFC all star team. Briere won the BCFC executive of the year award.
Coach Raymond said he enjoyed his time in Prince George and takes satisfaction in the progress he made putting the city on the junior football map.
“It was just one of those things where we couldn’t come to a mutual agreement,” he said. “I wish them the best of luck and what they’re doing with football there is amazing.
“I was excited to be a part of it, I think we did something special in the city laying the foundation for young kids who want to grow up and be Kodiaks. We brought a really big championship culture and mindset when you talk about building a team from the ground up and getting guys to mesh and learning how to play winning football.”
“I really appreciate the support of the people of Prince George, they were welcoming to me from top to bottom. This definitely won’t be my last trip to Prince George, I met a lot of good people there and you’re always grateful for the relationships that are built, even if it’s just for one season.”
Raymond has started his own business – K25 Sports – which organizes 7-on-7/flag football leagues and youth sports programs across the country, working with Nike Sports Camps, and he plans to devote more time to expanding his company.