Former Muskies now coaching high school football

It’s obvious Rainy River District generates some great athletes who leave and make it in the professional ranks. But what about those who go off and make it big, not as players but as coaches?
Former Muskie football players Jordy Cameron and Kurt Thornton are living in Surrey, B.C. acting out two of their dreams—becoming teachers and football coaches.
They both started out as Muskie receivers back in the late ’80s/early ’90s. The two moved on to play football for the University of Manitoba for a couple of years, then found themselves teaching at schools just five minutes away from each other in British Columbia.
“Our goal all along was to coach high school football because growing up, football was such a big part of our lives,” said Thornton. “Actually, a big part of the reason I became a teacher was because of athletics.”
The two reminisced about how good it felt to win NWOSSAA back in 1989 and couldn’t wait to play a part in other kids experiencing that same feeling.
Thornton talked about the great calibre of coaching he received when he suited up for the black-and-gold—and how it has affected his coaching style today.
“When I coach now, I use not just my ideas but I use all their ideas, too,” he said. “Their love for the game translated into our love for the game.”
Their obvious love for the game couldn’t be suppressed and the former Muskies teamed up with students and parents in the community two years ago to start a high school football team called the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers.
“What happened is years ago the school cancelled football because of the increasing cost and instead had rugby teams and things like that,” Thornton noted.
“A group of kids decided they wanted to make a comeback and we did.”
This past season, in just their second year of existence, the Panthers made it to the provincial final, where they fell to the Windsor Dukes who haven’t lost a game since 2003.
Not to mention they’ve been around for 30 or 40 years.
The Panthers were 5-2 last season and 10-0 this past year heading into the final. “Nobody has had the success we have so far,” Thornton said.
The two coaches are hoping their recent success will aid in bringing back the excitement and popularity football once enjoyed in British Columbia.
“There was like 3,000 people at B.C. Place [for] the final game,” Thornton recalled. “It was pretty cool to see yourself and your team on the big screen and hear them announce your name.”
While Thornton and Cameron are settled and comfortable in their new homes out west, both certainly miss their hometown.
“Fort is such a great town,” said Cameron. “When I go back during the bass tourney, I usually get to see everyone I know and it ends up being such a great time.”
Thornton agreed.
“I tend to gravitate to Fort in the summer. I miss the outdoors and hunting and fishing,” he said. “It’s really difficult to be away at times when I miss my parents and friends.
“Fort was my home and still is. It’s hard not to call it home.”
They may miss their hunting and fishing, but their best memories of Fort Frances stem from when they were Muskies.
“It was really nice to be a Muskie,” said Cameron. “It was such a learning experience.”
Cameron admitted he still logs on and checks out how the Muskies are doing in the Winnipeg High School Football League now.
“It’s exciting to be able to call myself a Muskie,” said Thornton, who hopes that one day his high school players will look back and feel the same honour he does when they refer to themselves as a Panther.

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