‘I wouldn’t be playing football at all anymore’: UNB Red Bombers

Garrett Doucette, left, and Justin Ellingwood are two St. Thomas University students playing for the UNB Red Bombers this year. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

Justin Ellingwood, a fourth-year St. Thomas University student, thought he’d have to forego his dreams of playing collegiate football in exchange for his preferred field of study.

But, because of the UNB Red Bombers, part of the Atlantic Football Association (AFL), he was able to play high-level football as the defensive captain.

“I came to STU thinking I’d have to switch over to rugby,” he said. “That idea lasted about a week until I found out I could play for the Red Bombers. It’s great you don’t need to pick a school to keep playing the sport you love.”

The UNB Red Bombers, operating out of the University of New Brunswick’s campus, is a football club team for students from New Brunswick Community College, UNB and STU. The team allows individuals to realize their athletic potential through a highly-regimented training program overlooked by a team of coaches and trainers.

Third-year running back, Garrett Doucette, said he’s appreciative for the Red Bombers in allowing him to continue his football journey while attending university.

“STU is where I want to be and I’m grateful for this opportunity,” said Doucette. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be playing football at all anymore.”

Doucette has been a running back for the past 10 years. He played for the Leo Hayes Lions under current Red Bombers coach Vince Sturgeon throughout junior varsity and varsity, so he is well-acquainted with the coach’s style.

Sturgeon described Doucette as “hard working” and “multi-skilled” on the field.

“He’s a real pleasure to have on the team,” said Sturgeon. “He does all the things we ask and he does everything quite well.”

The team currently sits at 3-0 as they prepare to take on their toughest opponent – the Dalhousie Tigers. Sturgeon said this upcoming game will provide insight into who is the top contender in the league.

“Every year, you go in wanting to win, so that is certainly our goal,” said Sturgeon.

With last year’s cancellation, the Red Bombers are the defending champions from 2019, although the roster looks wildly different than it did two years ago.

But, after losing playing time last year, Sturgeon said the team development feels as if they’re “starting from ground zero.” 

Ellingwood said he trained all throughout the extended off-season by going for frequent runs, working out in the weight room and joining a men’s football league that was still operating under COVID-19 regulations. Sturgeon said Ellingwood’s contributions as a team leader haven’t gone unnoticed.

“Justin [Ellingwood] is a guy who has really evolved into a leader,” said Sturgeon. “This year he led from the get-go.”

Ellingwood said he wants to help boost his team’s morale every play of the game. He said his personal goals are the same as his team’s this season – work together for a common purpose rather than have selfish aspirations.

“When you get all these guys from different backgrounds wanting to perform well and win, it ties us all together,” said Ellingwood. “There’s one goal, and that goal is to win everything.”