Believe it or not, the towering Sam Moreau made it all the way to his Grade 11 year – when he was already 6’5’’, 280 pounds – before strapping on the football pads and cleats for the first time.
“I started watching football in Grade 10 on TV. I started watching the CFL, and I liked it,” the former Queen Elizabeth High standout stated during a recent interview with the X-Men Touchdown Club. “Once I got to learn the game, I liked the strategy of it, and that was it.”
Moreau played defensive tackle in high school, and helped Halifax’s QEH win two provincial championships before it was time to make the move to university ball in the fall of 1986.
“I got recruited by all four AUS teams. I was going to go to Acadia, but then I came on a recruiting trip to StFX and I loved it,” Moreau said. “The team at StFX seemed closer in terms of camaraderie and friendships than Acadia did, and that impressed me. It was just a close-knit bunch of guys.”
The career path that Moreau would eventually carve out for himself – that of a practicing lawyer and, most recently, a Judge of the Family Court for the Province of Nova Scotia – was not on the mind of the young, university-bound Moreau.
“I was probably thinking more about an academic career, maybe becoming a professor,” Moreau said of his early career goals. “I was considering doing a masters in political science after my undergrad.”
In the meantime, Moreau – who ended up measuring in at 6’8’’, 305 pounds, and was quickly converted to the offensive line at the university level – was focused on taking care of business on the field.
“My first year, we were good. Back then, the top two teams just played each other in the championship,” he said. “We played Acadia in the championship that year, but we lost the game.”
Though that would be Moreau’s only taste of a championship game during his playing days, he still remembers a number of standout moments from his time as a member of the X-Men Football team.
“I can still remember our Homecoming game my second year. Paul Masotti ran back a kickoff with less than a minute left to win the game for Acadia. That kind of burst our bubble that year. We only won one game that season,” Moreau recalled. “Funny enough, the game we won that year was at StFX in the mud against Chris Flynn. The field was so muddy he couldn’t run.”
Though Moreau never experienced a championship season as a player, he still states that he enjoyed every minute of playing for the X-Men.
“It was an awesome experience. Most of the people I consider to be my best friends today are guys I played ball with at StFX,” he said.
After he graduated in 1991, Moreau embarked on a long and winding road before finding his ultimate calling. He first moved to Ottawa and “bummed around” for a while before returning to Halifax in 1992 and becoming a teacher’s assistant.
“It was during that year that the whole law school thing came up,” Moreau said. “I can’t remember exactly how it did, but it just seemed like a good alternative. I wasn’t really interested in practicing law, but I thought it would be a good degree to have. I figured I could always use it to do other things.”
Moreau went to Law School at Dalhousie, graduating in 1996. Even after that, however, Moreau still wasn’t sure he wanted to practice law until a friend suggested he send in an application for an articling position. A year later, Moreau starting practicing in legal aid – a move that ultimately led to the news of a job posting in the Antigonish area.
“I’d been speaking with John Stevens, he was the head coach at StFX at the time, and he asked if I wanted to get into coaching,” Moreau said. “So when that job opened up, it was perfect. I moved to the law office in Antigonish in 1999 and started coaching.”
Moreau ended up coaching the offensive line at StFX for a total of 15 years – a timespan that, obviously, would include many memorable moments on the field.
“We had some big wins. We had some moments,” Moreau said. “In 2002, Homecoming against SMU, we won 13-11. That was a huge win, because SMU was quite dominant back then, and we hadn’t beaten them since 1998, at that time.”
“Another memorable win was the semi-final game in 2003, at Acadia,” Moreau added. “We were really banged up. We only dressed four offensive linemen, and our two interior defensive linemen rotated at right guard. We were down 28-9 going into the fourth quarter, and we came back and won 30-28. With five minutes left, the PA guy was announcing to the Acadia fans where they could pick up their tickets to the championship game. That was quite a memorable win.”
Amidst all of the big wins Moreau experienced as a coach and a player – including appearances in a total of six AUS Championship games – a Loney Bowl win still eluded Moreau until the X-Men Football team’s historic 2015 campaign.
“I know I’m stating the obvious here, but what really stands out is the past two years, winning those championships. That has been unbelievable,” Moreau said.
Following the second championship win in 2016, another unexpected career opportunity once again impacted Moreau’s journey.
“I never really considered being a judge. A couple years ago, one of my former professors from law school kept trying to get me to apply to be a judge, and I finally did it,” Moreau said. “It’s one of those things that’s sitting on the corner of your desk for a while, and you end up just doing it. I basically got the application in the day of the deadline.”
It was a good thing he did, as Moreau’s application ended up being a successful one.
“I had an interview last November, and I was quite surprised when I got the call (to become a judge). It wasn’t always my intention, but it just happened,” Moreau said.
While Moreau is greatly looking forward to embarking on this next chapter of his career path in earnest, the new position includes a move away from Antigonish, and away from his coaching role at StFX – a fact that Moreau describes as “bittersweet”.
“I’ll use a Dennis McPhee quote here – coaching is the next best thing to playing. I’ve enjoyed the teaching aspect of it, and obviously there’s nothing like game day,” he said, going on to add that he will particularly miss coaching his guys on the offensive line. “Usually, the tightest group on a team is the offensive line. They are very cerebral guys, and I find generally – the good ones – can joke around a bit, but when it comes time to work, they work.”
While Moreau says it will be tough to leave his coaching duties behind, he feels that his time at StFX – as both a player and a coach – has prepared him well for this next chapter of his career, and he is quick to add that, no matter where his journey leads him in the future, he will always remain loyal to the White and Blue.