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With the 2018 REDBLACKS season on the horizon, the club has welcomed a couple of new additions to the front office. One of those new faces is that of Philippe Moreau, a 26-year-old football operations assistant who most recently served as national scout for the Montreal Alouettes. Though he has ambitions to one day be a general manager, Moreau is all about paying his dues and learning the process. So far, that plan has taken him from being a driver at Alouettes training camp in 2011 to essentially the club’s receptionist to football operations assistant and scout before joining the REDBLACKS this year. Moreau sat down with our Chris Hofley to talk about his career trajectory, his CFL experience so far and what he’ll be doing here in Ottawa.
Welcome to the REDBLACKS! Let’s start with the basics…where are you from and where did you go to school?
I’m from Blainville, which is in southwestern Quebec and about 30 kilometres from Montreal. I’m an only child and grew up playing many sports – football, hockey, basketball, soccer, baseball. Spent my teenage years like a lot of people, playing sports, going to school, just staying out of trouble. I always wanted to work in football and eventually the idea of going to school in the United States started to grow on me. I did some summer camps in the States to improve my English and after I graduated high school in 2009, I went off to school at Miami Dade College and spent two years there. Eventually I transferred to North Carolina State University and that was a very good experience.
You said you played football and wanted to work in football … when did you first start playing and did you have any desire to try to make a career of it as a player?
Like a lot of people do, I discovered football a little later than hockey or soccer and I started playing when I was about 14. Could I have played university football? Maybe. I was a smaller, speedy receiver. But I was also realistic and I wasn’t going to bank on that. I loved the game and even when I was thinking about trying to walk on to the team at NC State, I was looking at it more as a way to make connections, get to know the staff, that kind of thing. I’ve always been pretty analytical in how I watch sports, sometimes I would write my own articles, just for myself. I got interested in the draft and free agency process and started thinking more about coaching or working in a front office in the sports world, more so than playing the game.
What did you learn about the business side of sports at NC State?
I started off volunteering with the Wolfpack football team in recruiting and applied for many internships, because we needed one to graduate from Sports Management. I was about to come back to Canada and heard something had opened up with the football program, which was great timing. I got the internship and stayed involved with recruiting and was getting paid to work at the team’s reception desk. I met a lot of people in those roles, some are still at NC State, some are at other NCAA schools, one guy is with the 49ers.
So once your work permit was up and you came back to Canada, how did you land with the Alouettes?
In the summer of 2011 I had been a driver with the Alouettes during training camp. I had maybe 15 interviews in the US, applying for everything – ticket sales with the Carolina Hurricanes, a D3 hockey team in Minnesota. I think the whole visa thing scared some people away, which I get. So I reached out to (then-assistant GM) Joey Abrams and applied. I basically started out as Joey had with the Als, at reception, and I got a contract with them in 2015. I did a lot of business and administrative work and helped out wherever I could. I wasn’t involved in the draft that spring but I got more and more into CIS work (now U Sports) and that fall I started visiting schools, going to games and was more involved in the draft process and scouting.
It was obviously a tough year in Montreal last season on the field. What was that like for you?
It’s so busy, you just have to focus on what you can control. In the CFL you have a smaller staff, so it’s not like you’re just scouting, or you’re just doing one thing. In this business, you can’t focus on the outside noise. That sounds extremely cliché but it’s true. You do your work, you go to the combines, you watch film, you just do your job. In that sense, I think I’ve progressed a lot, as far as scouting but also just being focused on the goal, working your relationships and just putting my head down and getting things done.
Once you moved on from the Alouettes, how did you end up in Ottawa?
I had crossed paths with Marcel Desjardins in Montreal and stayed in touch with Jean-Marc Edme (REDBLACKS Director of Player Personnel). It just all worked out that there was something for me here and it feels like it’s going to be a really good fit. What I noticed right away is the structure. Every task, there’s a logical process of trying to get to a particular goal. There’s no busy work, everything is leading to something. There’s a sense of structure and purpose in what everyone does and that creates accountability.
How would you explain what a football operations assistant does here with the REDBLACKS?
I was told once, in operations, you try to do everything you can so coaches can coach and players can just go out and play. That’s how I would describe this job. I will handle things related to work permits, transportation, training camp planning. I’m doing scouting as well and just trying to get the best players, particularly the best Canadian players, on our team.
You mentioned you’re only 26, but what are your long-term goals in football moving forward?
There’s no question I would like to be a GM some day, but I don’t have a timeline for it. It’s one step at a time and there’s no rush. You see some GMs that are hired and they are in their 50s and I’m still pretty young. So I’m just trying to do the best that I can to learn the league in the job that I have now and I’ll keep going from there.
Thanks, Philippe. All the best in your new role!