February 1, 2019

Better Late Than Never | Offensive Line Coach Chiu Comes Home

More than two decades after the Alouettes selected him in the CFL Draft, Bryan Chiu is finally back home as BC Lions offensive line coach. Photo: Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press

*Stay tuned for next Tuesday when speaks with Chiu about his favourite Chinese New Year Traditions!

From changing his medical plan to getting a British Columbia driver’s licence for the first time in over two decades, he has been quite the busy guy this week. Yet Bryan Chiu would be the first to tell you it’s well worth it. Back home as Lions new offensive line coach, the Richmond native and alumnus of the prestigious Vancouver College Fighting Irish program, you couldn’t wipe the smile off his face when asked to recall his time growing up as a big fan of the BC Lions.

“I remember being nine years old and sitting in the end zone with my sister and cousins watching Lui Passaglia, Mervyn Fernandez and all those guys,” Chiu recalls fondly.

“I also remember telling my sister at that time I was going to be on that field someday hopefully playing for the BC Lions.”

The exact dream didn’t come to fruition. But that’s not to say the former centre has any regrets about a 13-year career in Montreal that included two Grey Cup wins, seven CFL All-Star nods- six of those coming consecutively from 2000-05- and playing a big role in helping the Alouettes establish themselves as the undisputed model franchise of the previous decade.

“At the time when I got drafted by Montreal I was a little disappointed,” the seven-time CFL All-Star remembers.

“Wanting to play at home naturally and then moving to the opposite side of the country to a French-speaking place, it took me some time to adjust. At the end of the day when I look back on it, every other team had a chance to draft me before Montreal took a chance. It was important for me to remain loyal to the Alouettes. I had a blast playing with the likes of Tracy Ham, Mike Pringle and Anthony Calvillo just to name a few.”


Another one of those teammates was a scrappy, hard-nosed smooth talker named DeVone Claybrooks. Practising against his new boss every day gave Chiu an idea of how dedicated he is to the craft.

“I always knew from the time I played with him he would make one hell of a coach. He has a big head and he hits hard,” Chiu laughs.

“He was just a smart player and that has translated into his identity as a coach. He would talk a lot but also get in your head because he would have you thinking every which way. DeVone is quite the psychologist. I think the staff that he’s assembled here is pretty unique. Some of us have played together and against each other. It’s such a good mix with us younger guys and a veteran like Rich Stubler. DeVone will do a great job handling all of us personalities.”

Like his head coach, Chiu eats, sleeps and breathes football. Prior to his memorable run in La Belle Province, Chiu wrapped up his Vancouver College tenure in 1991 by helping the Irish win their first Senior Varsity Provincial Championship since 1967. After two years at the University of Pacific, Chiu transferred to Washington State for two years and completed his Sociology degree. Once his playing career was winding down, he knew he wanted to remain in football and that coaching was his only desired path.

“It really was,” he says.

“I played for 13 years and when I retired I asked myself what could I do? I suppose I could have used my degree but really, my passion was the game of football and that had been my life for the last 20 years. I always enjoyed the Xs and Os and it was a natural progression for me.”

Chiu would cut his coaching teeth at Concordia University from 2010-13 before landing as offensive line coach with the Toronto Argonauts the next season. From there, he moved to the Ottawa RedBlacks for three seasons, earning a third Grey Cup ring in 2016. The nation’s capital would be where the long and windy road back to the west coast ended.

Although it will take some time to determine the exact makeup of his 2019 crop of offensive linemen, Chiu knows just the identity his group will need to play with in order to ensure the squad meets their common goal.

“They’re going to be nasty,” Chiu proclaims.

“I want our guys to play with a high effort and lots of intensity. I don’t want them to be dirty, but I want them to play until the whistle and finish every block. When we’re behind I want the O-Line’s attitude to be ‘put it on our backs and we’ll win this game together.’ We’re going to keep our quarterback healthy, open holes for our running back and play smart football.”

Before he and the coaching staff get to work later this month, it will be about getting re-acquainted with Greater Vancouver and getting his wife Carlee- a native Montreal- and three children, aged 12, nine and three accustomed to West Coast living. Looking back on it, being drafted by another organization and living in a different part of the country for so long did wonders.

“I was lucky to play in seven Grey Cups and would never take it back; the chance to be a part of something that special. But at the end of the day, I knew somehow, some way I was going to find my way back home.”

Matt Baker: