BRENT SCHNEIDER (BEd’96)
Brent Schneider was at the helm of an explosive offence that would make it to the Vanier Cup that year, and the game against the UBC Thunderbirds would push the Huskie quarterback into the national spotlight.
At that time TSN did a university game of the week and it just so happened to be this game.
“That was always fun for us to know we were playing on national television,” said Schneider.
“I remember it was a bright, sunny warm October Saturday afternoon, and there was a good vibe going into the game.
“We were not where we wanted to be as a team and were trying to turn the corner toward having a strong finish to our season and everything sort of fell into place that day.”
Did they ever.
The Huskies could do no wrong in the first half as Schneider threw seven touchdown passes before half-time.
“It was just one of those days where you have lightning in a bottle,” Schneider said. “It just all came together -- guys were making great catches, we overpowered the UBC team we were playing.
“We had some receivers that were second to none – Dave Blackburn, Carey Prokop, Mo Norsten, our tailback, was a great weapon to use out of the backfield. I think those guys all caught touchdowns that day.”
The team didn’t have a regular field goal kicker so they gambled a lot on third down anytime they were UBC’s side of half.
“One time we faked a field goal and I threw one to Dave Blackburn that we scored on,” Schneider said. “It just sort of steamrolled.”
“I made some good throws and sometimes we got lucky. I think Prokop caught one off the top of a defender's helmet.”
In one of the first drives of the third quarter Schneider threw his eighth TD pass and head coach Brian Towriss took him out of the game, which would end up being a 70-17 victory.
“Who knows, there could have been a few more out there,” Schneider laughed.
With the game being televised nationally the spotlight shone on Schneider.
“I was certainly riding high, and it got our season back on track.”
But football is fickle.
The next weekend the Huskies went to Calgary and played on a snowy, slushy field.
Schneider went back into the pocket, was hit while throwing and tore his knee up.
“It went from one week feeling pretty good about how things were going to potentially being out for the season the next week. It was quite the roller-coaster,” he said.
Schneider missed the final regular season game and the Canada West final against Calgary before returning to play in the Atlantic Bowl against St. Mary’s in Halifax.
The Huskies would go on to play in one of the most memorable Vanier Cups, losing 50-40 in overtime to the Western Mustangs.
Schneider threw for 528 yards and four touchdown passes in the game. He also threw five interceptions.
“Losing that game was bitter and drove me to finish my eligibility,” Schneider said.
Two years later the Huskies were back in the Vanier Cup and Schneider would get his championship ring with a 31-12 win over St. Francis Xavier.
Schneider still holds a number of Huskie records, including career touchdowns (56) and career passing yards (8,294).
SAMANTHA SIMPSON (BSc’97)
Growing up with an older brother in Saskatoon Samantha Simpson says becoming a good goaltender was all about self -preservation.
“If you wanted to play street hockey with your older brother (Jeff ), little sister went in net so all of his friends could shoot at you,” said Simpson. “I like to think I got into goalkeeping as a means of self-defence.”
Simpson would follow her brother into soccer, spending five years with the Huskies where she recorded 10 shutouts in 30 games, a Huskie record she shares with Cara Santaga.
What’s so remarkable about the 10 shutouts is the team did not have much success, winning just six times and 14 ties over the five years Simpson was on the team.
“We always struggled to score, but we were always pretty good defensively,” Simpson said. “If we got the opportunity we would try to score, but we’re definitely not going to let you score.”
When Simpson began playing soccer, it was with the boys.
“Back then there was no girls' team so I was playing with boys from my elementary school,” Simpson said, adding they weren’t sure what to do with her so they put her in net.
It turns out she was really good.
When she finally started playing girls soccer she moved to midfield.
“Then one of my coaches discovered I could play goal and that’s where I landed from about 15 onward,” she said.
When Simpson arrived with the Huskies, they already had a veteran keeper in Angy Couseneau so she only got into a handful of games the first two years.
But she was able to hone her keeper skills by continuing to play with her club and provincial teams.
In 1993 Simpson became the starter. The same year Simpson and her provincial team went to the Canada Games.
“There was a good core of us with the provincial team that were also with the Huskies,” she said.
“We had great chemistry and had an amazing season, at least from our perspective.”
The Huskies would continue to struggle on the field, but Simpson’s stellar play did not go unnoticed.
In 1993, Simpson was named Huskie Athlete of the Year and is still only the second female soccer player to receive the honour (the other being Jacqueline Lavallee).
Simpson is the only female Huskie soccer player to be named a first-team All-Canadian, receiving the honour twice (1993-94 and 1994-95), and was named Canada West player of the year in 1993-94.
She was also a Canada West first-team all-star three times.
“In my fourth year, I had some nibbles from the national team,” said Simpson.
But then she tore her MCL at the start of her fifth year and missed the first half of the season.
She credits her 10 shutouts and success to having a solid defence and great communication with her teammates.
“There are 11 of us on the field and we had a very good core of defensive players,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, I had my share of things to do at the back, but at the time it didn’t feel like I was doing anything special or out of the ordinary.
“We just made it as hard as possible for anybody to A, get through to me, and B, if they did get through, I was OK in my job.”
Simpson said she was always a student of the game and was positionally sound.
“I’ve always felt that I read the game very well and can anticipate when someone will try to put a long ball through,” she said.
One of her favourite Huskie games was also a bittersweet one.
It was a game against the powerhouse UBC Thunderbirds in their home stadium.
“We were holding UBC, which had been something like six-time national champions and half their team played on the national team, we were actually holding them to a 0-0 game until the last few minutes of the game,” Simpson said. “Honestly, I think my own team scored on me. I think it was a crossed ball off of a body and in.
“It broke our hearts because that would have been the first time in history we would have taken a point off a UBC team. Here we are, a bunch of Saskatchewan girls putting up the 11-man wall so to speak.”
After her Huskie career, Simpson moved to Calgary in 1997 where she connected with the Calgary Dinos and became their goalkeeping coach and assistant coach for 13 years.
SARAH CROOKS (BA'07, BSN'13)
When Sarah Crooks discovered basketball, it soon consumed her life.
“I just loved basketball and I played every recess, every noon hour. I was in the gym every single day,” said Crooks, who grew up in Fife Lake and didn’t start playing basketball until Grade 10.
“And there was no such thing as people getting cut. We never had enough people come out.”
Despite the late start, Crooks was an alternate on the provincial team in her Grade 11 year and that’s where Huskie head coach Lisa Thomaidis discovered her during a scrimmage against the Huskies.
Thomaidis called Crooks the next year inviting her to come try out for the Huskies.
“I went up to a game in the fall and I knew instantly I wanted to play here,” Crooks said. “I’d do whatever it takes to play here.”
As a 6-foot-2 rookie forward, Crooks had a lot to learn.
“When I came to Saskatoon in the summer to scrimmage with the Huskies I was horrible,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about basketball. I didn’t know how to set screens, I didn’t know anything.”
But Thomaidis saw something in her and kept pushing her to get better.
“I was just athletic, that’s all.
“The only thing Lisa could say about me was that Sarah can run and jump, and that is the truth. We joke about it now,” Crooks said.
“When I made the team, I was completely shocked.”
Crooks came to the Huskies at the same time as another rising star, guard Ashley Dutchak, and it was the start of a great run for the team.
Crooks said much of her success can be credited to Dutchak.
“She’s an amazing player and teammate. She also had a huge passion and dedication for the game and I think, in part, we helped change the culture of the team.”
Crooks said basketball didn’t come naturally to her and she needed to work at it every day.
“I thought about it constantly. I would be walking between classes thinking about the move I was working on, picturing it in my head,” she said.
“And I was in the gym all the time. I was a perfectionist. If there was something I wasn’t doing right, I was working on it.”
Her athleticism carried her until her skills caught up.
“I wanted to be the best player in the world, even though I knew that wasn’t possible. It was my goal. That drove me every day.”
By her second year other teams were taking notice of Crooks.
“I would get double-teamed, drawing a lot of defensive attention and teams were focussing on trying to shut me down.”
In her fourth year the team had their best season ever, going 17-3 in the regular season.
And Crooks was named a CIS All-Canadian and won the Nan Copp Award as the best player in the country.
Crooks would set the all-time Huskie scoring mark that season and the team would win its first ever conference championship in the modern era, downing a perennial powerhouse UBC team in the final.
Crooks said that was one of her favourite memories as a Huskie.
“Other people were stars in that game, not me,” she said. “Everyone stepped up and it was so much fun.”
Crooks would go on to win the Nan Copp award for the second time the next year and be named a CIS All-Canadian. By this time, she was also playing on Canada’s national team.
Crooks would finish her career with a record 1,999 career points and 1,181 rebounds.
After her Huskies playing days, Crooks continued playing on the national team in the summers and also spent three seasons in Spain from September to April playing professionally.
These days, she can be found in Nashville, Tenn., along with her husband and three children.