Mason Nyhus has walked through the gates of Griffiths Stadium hundreds of times over his football career.
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On Friday night, however, the former University of Saskatchewan quarterback did so for the first time wearing navy blue instead of his familiar Huskie green.
“Once you cross the white stripe for two and a half hours, I’m on the UBC Thunderbirds to win a football game,” said Nyhus. “It’s that simple, but obviously I’m just excited to see guys and I’m excited to come back to Saskatchewan.”
Bleeding green and white for five years with the Huskies, Nyhus returned to Saskatoon with the UBC Thunderbirds not as a player, but as part of the team’s coaching staff.
Hired by the Thunderbirds in the off-season after graduating from the Huskies program, Nyhus has taken on the title of quarterback coach, guiding UBC’s group including Garrett Rooker, Derek Engel and Shawn Lal.
“I think I wore a green sweater on the first day of this week,” said Nyhus. “It was raining outside, it’s Vancouver, I was wearing a sweater. The guys were like, ‘Green sweater this week?’ I’m like, ‘Fair enough.’”
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Moving into coaching from his time on the field has been a big change for Nyhus, who is now pursuing a full-time job in teaching while assisting the Thunderbirds offence.
“I’m waking up, teaching career education and economics, living with my girlfriend and whatnot,” said Nyhus. “So it’s a very different lifestyle than living with your teammates and going to practice every day. But it’s been a fun and interesting transition in kind of moving on with life.”
UBC head coach Blake Nill was first contacted by Nyhus in January when it looked like he was moving to Vancouver, which prompted a discussion between the pair of joining the Thunderbirds coaching staff.
“I really believe he’s brought incredible value to UBC football right from the beginning,” said Nill. “Just with his youth, his enthusiasm, but most importantly with his knowledge and understanding of the position.”
“We’re very fortunate to have him in there. We really, I feel, got lucky and I’m totally embracing having him in the program.”
A star behind centre during his time in Saskatoon, the Regina product became one of the top quarterbacks in all of U Sports over his five seasons.
With Nyhus at the helm, the Huskies made back-to-back Vanier Cup appearances in 2021 and 2022 while Nyhus also set the program’s single-season passing yards record with 3,829 yards thrown in his senior year.
Finishing his career with over 9,600 yards passing and 25 touchdowns, Nyhus has gone down as one of the most prolific quarterbacks in University of Saskatchewan history.
But more than that, his personal impact on the team is still being felt even after his graduation.
“He was a great leader for our program,” said Huskies football head coach Scott Flory. “Not only a great quarterback, and you saw that on the field, but I think just his attitude and how much of a leader he was within our locker room.”
Those connections formed in the locker room at Griffiths Stadium are something that Nyhus still holds close to his heart, even though he’s now helping to lead a Canada West rival.
“They really built me up into the man I am today,” said Nyhus. “My football knowledge, the reason why I’m into coaching is everything to do with those guys. So really, it’s about the relationships.”
Staring across the field at friends and teammates he’s grow up with, there were plenty of reunions Friday for the former Huskies quarterback.
While the bonds will remain no matter what logo he wears, his competitive spirit now lies on the west coast.
“They’re all still my best friends and I love those guys,” said Nyhus. “But obviously 7:00 comes and for three hours, they’ll be off for a little bit.”
The Huskies were able to get the better of Nyhus and the Thunderbirds on Friday night, holding on for a 34-31 victory to improve their record on the 2023 season to 4-1.
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