Ryan Thelwell could always run fast and he had a natural talent for handling a basketball or football. Put it all together and you have the recipe for the making of an outstanding athlete.
Such is the case for Jamaican-born Thelwell who came to London at age four. Born on April 6, 1973 in Montego Bay, he became a star athlete at Catholic Central High School where he won honours in basketball, volleyball, track and football.
It was his ability to catch a football that led to a scholarship at the University of Minnesota, the first step to a lengthly professional career that included a look-see in the NFL and an 11-year career in the CFL where he had his name inscribed on the Grey Cup on three separate occasions.
At Minnesota he earned All-Big Ten second team honours and was a Big Ten coaches honourable mention as a talented pass-catcher with the Golden Gophers.
After college, the San Francisco 49ers made him their seventh round draft choice in 1998 while the British Columbia Lions selected him 9th overall in the CFL draft.
Following an unsuccessful bid to crack the 49ers lineup he moved down the California coast to join the San Diego Chargers appearing in six games, catching 16 passes for 268 yards and scoring a touchdown in the team’s final game of the season.
The next spring, the Pittsburgh Steelers were interested and Ryan went to camp but didn’t suit up for a game. He also had a brief look with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Disappointed but undaunted, Ryan turned to the CFL where he found a home with the B.C. Lions who had drafted him. He played in Vancouver for six years, winning Grey Cups with the Lions in 2006 and 2011 under head coach Wally Buono.
Following the 2006 season Ryan became a free agent and signed on with the Calgary Stampeders where he played for the next four seasons under coach John Hufnagel. Together they won another Grey Cup in 2008. Ryan then retired but returned the CFL wars in 2011 when an injury opened a spot on B.C.’s roster.
Ryan was a Western League all-star in 2004 and 2005. His CFL career numbers proved him a talented and respectable receiver having made 486 catches for 6,670 yards and 39 touchdowns. He retired after the 2011 season.
Ryan makes his home in Calgary with his wife and their three children.
The London Sports Hall of Fame welcomes Ryan Thelwell into our Class of 2015 in the athlete modern category.