When competing in the world of professional sports one key element to every great player, regardless of the sport played, is consistency. When you look at all of the greatest athletes since the beginning of elite level competition, whether it be Michael Jordan on the basketball court or Derek Jeter in the ball park, elite athletes are one of, if not the best players for their teams at all times. Their intensity level remains high during practice and carries into the game, no matter what the circumstance. For the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes, they enjoyed 13 seasons of high level consistency from centre Bryan Chiu. During his 13 years as an Alouette, Chiu was a seven-time CFL All-Star and was named a CFL East All-Star 9 times in 10 years. He was the CFL’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman in 2002 and enjoyed two Grey Cup victories with the team in 2002 and 2009.
To the surprise of most people around the league, especially those within the Alouettes organization, Chiu announced his retirement from professional football via Twitter on opening day of the 2010 training camp. Though his career in the CFL had come to an end, Chiu’s consistency would not be phased as he now coaches with the Concordia Stingers and has continued to work and lend a helping hand in the community.
“Now that I’ve I retired I’m focusing more of my time with the Chinese community services here in Montreal, the family services for the Asian community and helping with the children’s hospitals,” explained Chiu. “My job now is at Concordia and it requires a lot of my time, needless to say, but I continue to try to give back whenever I can.”
Bryan and his younger sister were raised by a single mother, an experience that helped turn him into the man he is now.
“My dad was killed when I was two-years old and my mom had to raise me and my sister at a very young age so it really helped me to give back and just show that you can make it,” he said.
“To see my mom’s struggles, she was a 25-year old woman with myself being two and my sister being one. She didn’t have an education, no job, she couldn’t speak English, no car and basically had no money to her name and we relied a lot on the community. People helped her get her degree and get a job and put us through school and everything. It was just something ingrained in me that we had to give back,” described Bryan.
For some athletes, the stress of becoming a role model can be overwhelming and unwelcome in their private lives. For Bryan Chiu, the chance to pass knowledge and skill down to a younger generation is an opportunity that just can’t be passed on.
“The kids look up to us and we can pass along a positive message and let them know that we’re really no different than any other person out there like your teachers or parents,” said Chiu. “What we get to do is play a game and we’re on TV a little bit, but were just regular people and basically show them that it’s great to be a professional athlete and at the same time be people that can instill positive things in them,” he added.
Aside from giving back to the community that had helped Bryan and his family for so long, Chiu has continued to keep football as a part of his everyday life. He serves as the assistant offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Concordia University where he is happily giving back to the sport that had been there for him for his entire life.
“When I retired I had opportunities to coach at the pro level but I think the biggest thing for me was to be able to help younger kids aspire to reach their goals. At our level the kids here are coming out of high school and they’re still at the age where we can really help them and teach them everything we can and basically help them become student athletes,” he explained.
“A lot of these kids are away from home and don’t have their parents, so what we do here is we’re almost like their sergeant fathers and that’s rewarding to me personally to be able to help these kids,” elucidated Chiu.
“My favourite part is seeing the success our kids have, not just in football but seeing them get their degrees, seeing them smile when we win games, it builds so much character in football,” he added.
Bryan Chiu enjoyed one of the best careers an athlete could ask for. He played for a city he called his home and will be remembered by Alouettes fans for years to come. His importance to the city of Montreal is measured by his impact on the community, followed by his excellence on the football field. He is a proud Canadian and an ideal role model for those young and old.
“Giving back is an important part in being a professional athlete and a lot of the time athletes get bad reps, but there’s really only a few guys like that. A lot of the guys in the CFL are really community oriented. I think the CFL has done a great job at promoting these guys and giving the fans a chance to relate to these athletes as regular people who just want to share their story and help this country be a better place.”