Sask. rancher leaves the range for gridiron

Garret Glasrud helps with branding at the family ranch near Shaunavon, Sask. | Photo supplied by Garrett Glasrud

The connection between farm kids and sport is strong and well-documented, although on the Prairies that often means rodeo or hockey players making it to the National Hockey League.

Garret Glasrud’s game is football, and he recently had to choose between the ranch he loves and the game he loves.

Football won — for now.

Glasrud ranches with his father, Ray, on the edge of the Cypress Hills in the Bench Valley, about 18 kilometres west of Shaunavon, Sask. They run about 300 head in a cow-calf Simmental and Angus operation and hay about 700 acres.

But in late July he moved his wife and young baby to Colorado to take a job as the linebackers coach at Western State Colorado University.

“It was something I couldn’t turn down,” he said in an interview before the family moved south. “It was something I had to take a chance on.”

As a child, Glasrud wanted to be a bull rider but his dad was having none of it. He spotted a poster for football tryouts, encouraged his 12-year-old son to go, and that was that.

Glasrud earned a scholarship after playing high school football in Shaunavon and played on the defensive line at Montana State Northern for four years.

He was eligible for the 2009 Canadian Football League draft, but any dream of a playing career ended with a broken arm while working at the stockyards.

Glasrud turned to coaching and became the head coach at his high school alma mater six years ago. The Shadows made the playoffs five times since and won two provincial championships in three years, with an overall record of 35-14.

He has also been tapped to coach provincial level teams.

Glasrud coached the Shaunavon Shadows for the last six years and also coached at the provincial level. | Photo supplied by Garrett Glasrud

He has been ranching for 10 years and has never been to Gunnison, Colorado, where the NCAA Division II team, the Mountaineers, play.

As he helped moved cattle on horseback in the picturesque valley in the days before leaving, Glasrud said he was a bit emotional.

“It’s been a struggle these last few days,” he said. “You never really soak it in until you realize it might not be there.”

He worries about missing the ranch. He worries about leaving his high school players behind.

And he worries about Ray, who should be retired by now but instead told his son he could see it coming.

“We do most things side by side,” Glasrud said. “We’ve worked every day together for the last 10 years.”

But at the same time, in Colorado he will be working with and learning from a defensive coach who played for the Green Bay Packers.

He knows the American game, having played it for years, and he actually finds it easier to understand. He suspects he is the only Canadian to coach NCAA football.

“Have any others left ranching to coach?” he wondered.

Typically, college coaches are on contract for 10 months of the year but his position is new and will be up for renegotiation in November.

“After that, we’ll figure out where the path will lead,” he said.

Could he both ranch and coach?

“That crosses my mind quite a bit,” he said.

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