Former Ottawa Rough Rider gave back to the game at every level

OTTAWA -- A life marked by a devotion to football and a willingness to help others was honoured this evening with the posthumous presentation of the Commissioner’s Award to Rick Sowieta.

“A wise man once said that the meaning of life is to find your gift, and the purpose of life is to give it away. As a young man Rick Sowieta found he had a gift for football, and he spent the rest of his life giving back to the game at every level,” said Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner of the Canadian Football League.

“When a team needed a coach, and especially if a program was in trouble, Rick would always step up. When he passed this summer Ottawa lost a favourite son, and the game lost a devoted friend. In remembering Rick, we hope to pay tribute to all those who work selflessly to build the game of Canadian football.”

Sowieta had an impact on football across the country, working with national and world teams, and serving as the Director of Sport with Football Canada.

But it was in Ottawa, the town he grew up in after his family immigrated to Canada, where Sowieta left his greatest marks on the amateur and professional games, from community sandlots to the stadiums of the CFL.

Sowieta played high school football at Glebe Collegiate, junior football for the Ottawa Sooners, and after playing U.S. college football at the University of Richmond, broke into the CFL with the Toronto Argonauts in 1977 and 1978, before playing for the Ottawa Rough Riders from 1979 to 1986, where he was an Eastern Division All-Star.

Following his playing days, Sowieta coached community football with the Canterbury Mustangs, high school at St. Mark and St. Patrick’s, university at the University of Ottawa, junior with the Sooners, and semi-pro with the Bootleggers. He also worked with national teams on the men’s and women’s sides as well as being an active member of the CFL and Rough Rider Alumni Associations and serving on the Selection Committee of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.   

“Football was always Rick’s first passion and coaching was a huge part of his life. Football shaped him into the strong man he was, it forged the strong will he had, and it created the incredible bond he shared with this teammates,” said Jenny Sowieta, Rick’s wife.

“The football community has given him and us so much support and I can’t say ‘thank you’ enough. This honour just adds to our overwhelming feeling of gratitude.”

The Commissioner’s Award recognizes dedication to Canadian football. Past winners include Bernie Custis, Russ Jackson, Wally Buono and Ron Lancaster. It was presented tonight as part of the Shaw CFL Awards, a highlight of the week leading up to Sunday’s 105th Grey Cup presented by Shaw.

“Even after he learned he had cancer, Rick was still coaching and leading, this time teaching us all about optimism and determination and courage,” Ambrosie said. “We are proud to honour his many contributions to our game.”  

Lucas Barrett

Coordinator, Communications, Canadian Football League

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