Gee-Gees football team to honour teammate one week after sudden death

·2 min read
Francis Perron, a 25-year-old defensive lineman for the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees, died on Sept. 18, 2021, shortly after the team's season opener in Toronto. (University of Ottawa - image credit)
Francis Perron, a 25-year-old defensive lineman for the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees, died on Sept. 18, 2021, shortly after the team's season opener in Toronto. (University of Ottawa - image credit)

The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees football team will play just one week after the sudden death of a beloved teammate, and display his jersey along the sidelines during the game.

Francis Perron of Sherbrooke, Que., died shortly after the team's season opener in Toronto last weekend.

The football program suspended activities in the days following, but on Thursday announced it would play its next game Saturday at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont.

"It didn't matter to me whether we played another down of football this season," said head coach Marcel Bellefeuille.

"Some players felt, you know, that this getting back on the field, and after a few days of grieving, was going to be a good thing for them ... they felt like Francis would want them to play."

The team held their first practice since Perron's death Wednesday evening and any players who weren't ready to return to the field would be welcome back any time, said Bellefeuille.

The team plans to hold a ceremony during their upcoming game in Kingston where Perron's jersey will be on display on the sideline.

WATCH | Head coach Marcel Bellefeuille on Francis Perron:

'Everybody's ready to play the game'

Friend and teammate Michael Pezzuto said he remembers Perron as a full-effort teammate who "would want for us to go out there and ball out and win this game for him."

Pezzuto said the team is "ready to play the game" to help them work through the grieving process.

"Having all the fans behind us and stuff and have Frank up there to look down on us. I think it'll be a good outcome for this game and everybody's ready," he said.

A 25-year-old mechanical engineering student, Perron started playing for the Gee-Gees in 2017 and was named an academic all-Canadian in 2018 and 2019. The cause of his death has not been announced.

Mental health counsellors have been on campus to work with grieving players this week and that work continues, said Bellefeuille.

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