Football Universities

HIGH ACHIEVERS: U Sports honours the late Francis Perron with national Russ Jackson Award

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic

By Martin Cleary

The University of Ottawa’s “ultimate leader” was honoured Thursday night with one of U Sports’ top football awards in a national ceremony during the Vanier Cup gala in Quebec City.

The late Francis Perron was posthumously recognized as the recipient of the Russ Jackson Award as the country’s top university football player exemplifying academic achievement, football skill and citizenship.

He was automatically nominated for the U Sports award, after winning the same honour in the Ontario University Athletics conference.

Francis Perron. File photo

“Francis was an outstanding person, teammate and veteran leader that made us better in every way possible. Francis was the ultimate leader,” Marcel Bellefeuille, the head football coach of the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees, said in a press release.

“He did everything by example. He was excellent in every area of his life and we’re all better for having known him.”

Read More: After 2-year absence, OL Zack Pelehos named Gee-Gees football MVP

Perron, a fifth-year defensive tackle, had a heart attack and tragically passed away Sept. 18, shortly after the Gee-Gees had opened their 2021 OUA season with an 11-10 loss to the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. The University of Ottawa posthumously granted the three-time Academic All-Canadian his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering this fall.

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The 2019 football season was his final year on the field as the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the 2020 campaign. In his last season, Perron recorded 11 solo and six assisted tackles for losses totalling 2.5 yards, one sack and a fumble recovery that he turned into a 22-yard, game-winning touchdown in the Panda Game against the Carleton University Ravens.

He played 24 games in his four-year career and had 30 solo and 32 assisted tackles, four sacks for a loss of 27 yards, six tackles for loss (26 yards total), one forced fumble, two breakups and one fumble recovery.

“It’s really important that we continue to keep his memory in the forefront,” Bellefeuille said in a Zoom interview. “He’ll always be in our hearts. As time goes on, it will be remembered as a great story to wrap our arms around and enjoy.”

The Sherbrooke, Que., native was a bright, passionate and caring person, who was serious about both his academics and athletics.

Bellefeuille said Perron’s greatest quality was his all-around excellence.

“He was excellent in everything he did. He was an excellent football player, teammate, son, brother. He spent time tutoring our players and he spent hours in a tough academic program,” he explained. “He made sure the athletes were eligible and doing well.

“When I think about him, one word comes to mind – excellence. It did not matter what he did. He did it extremely well and to the highest level he could.”

Gee-Gees’ offensive lineman Naim El-Far also won the Russ Jackson Award at the provincial and national levels in 2006.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

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