A coach with no shortage of words

It was a coach’s show on radio. It was supposed to last five minutes or so, the precise timeline “a little” flexible because on every Monday to Friday evening during football season, the deejay who followed it never seemed to start on schedule.

Thanks to Joe.

The coach was Joe Galat, a football lifer, and the team was the Montreal Concordes, who never reached puberty, or the age of first graders. Every weeknight for that first season, I asked the questions and he had the answers. Because I tended to over-prepare for interviews, typically on my notepad there would be half a dozen questions.

Two would have done. Actually, one. Even then, this was a coach’s show that frequently lasted nine minutes (then I asked my second question), much to the consternation of the impatient deejay impatiently waiting in the next studio.

Yes, Joe Galat could talk and, some would say, better than he could coach. For the sake of perspective, that inaugural Concordes team was assembled only a month before its first game, and was even worse than the Alouettes team of the previous year. On the way to dying from poverty, apathy and legalese, those Alouettes went 3-13. Galat’s Concordes went 2-14. On both sides of the border, it was called the worst team in pro football.

Galat was general manager and coach. Halfway through the fourth season, he fired the coach. Halfway through the fifth, he resigned and left just before the Concordes turned out the lights on Montreal football. Darkness lasted 10 years. Galat went west to B.C. to generally manage the Lions before briefly becoming their head coach, eventually departing with CFL coaching records of 19-41–2 in Montreal (winning percentage .322) and 7-7 in B.C. Despite that, his coaching knowledge is beyond question. Coaches he hired won six Grey Cups, starting with Wally Buono’s three.

Galat never lost his ability to speak and to motivate and, yes, to sell. He promoted a safer version of artificial grass, FieldTurf. And 27 years ago, he founded American Youth Football, a services organization to teach young players the “importance of academic achievement and community involvement.” To sign up, players had to “pay it forward” by participating in at least one community service, such as sleeping in a homeless encampment.

Now 84, Galat’s still “coaching”… still selling football. His first book stressed keeping the head out of tackling. The pandemic prompted him to write a second book, “Lessons from the 100-yard classroom.” Among ex-players endorsing his philosophy is Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie Long. “I have known Joe Galat since I was 13… he has impacted the lives of countless young men, including yours truly,” Long said. “I am a big believer in football’s ability to instill the kind of values in young men that will serve them well in life, long after their final snap.”

And Tom Cousineau, who spent two years under Galat’s guidance when he was the linebackers coach with the Alouettes, said this: “You have had a great hand in changing so many young lives, families and communities for the better through your work in AYF.”

As much as Joe Galat talks, one thing is clear: He’s well-worth the listen.