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Brantford Police ServiceFormer CFL star giving back to community as a football coach and police constable

For much of his early life, Dakota Brush went through many struggles and faced many adversities.  

However, Brush notes that despite the struggles, he knew his mother was always there for both him and his sister.  

“It wasn’t the easiest when I was growing up. My mom was a single mom who worked extremely hard [doing] factory work. She provided everything she could for me and my sister. We had a lot of struggles [always trying to] find ways of covering expenses,” said Brush. “But my mom was always extremely supportive of what my and I sister did…I was able to develop and grow with a unique perspective, but ultimately, a lot of that happened through sports.”

Brush, who was born in Brantford, spent his adolescence in Hamilton before coming back to the local area in 2006.

“When we moved back…my mom was recovering from substance abuse issues. [In retrospect] I can see that [she] was trying to relocate us into a better situation; we moved into a nice house up in the north end,” Brush explained. “I went to elementary school up in Banbury [Heights Public School] and started to get more involved in football [with the] Brantford Bisons organization.”

Dakota Brush, seen here playing a game against the Acadia Axemen, spent four at Mount Allison University, earning two AUS (Atlantic University Sport) all-star appearances, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. Photo courtesy Mount Allison University.

Although Brush played a variety of sports, his heart was set on football, which resonated with him.

“I think football is a very unique sport. I like the physicality aspect of it, but it also provides a good parallel to life. I’ve learned so much through the game that I’ve implemented in my day-to-day life…the approach to being prepared [and] being ready for anything, [and] learning how to deal with adversity,” Brush said. “When I was young and we moved to Brantford the idea was that I was a very active kid. I had a lot of struggles in school [and didn’t] have any problems other than simply wanting to always be outside, I always wanted to be moving [and] doing something physically active.”

Brush, who is currently the Varsity Director for the Brantford Bisons football program, continues to mentor and guide youth in the Brantford community. Photo courtesy Brantford Bisons.

However, although Brush could count on his mother to help him develop in various aspects of his life, there were several people, whom he met through football, who would become father-like role models for him.   

“I came from a single-parent household, so my mom was the rock. She was the MVP, but at the same time, there were a lot of things that she couldn’t teach me. There’s a bond between a father and a son that ultimately at some points in my life, I never got. So, there were people that have come through [and] that I’ve met and [mentored me,]” Brush explained. “In high school, at Pauline Johnson Collegiate [& Vocational School], I was introduced to Ken Chisholm. He was my teacher [and] coached me in multiple sports. He never accepted the traditional excuses that I’ve always given, and he just challenged me to be better. He was my first mentor. John McDonald was another mentor. He was an individual who showed me that it is possible that you can come from a small town like Brantford and have opportunities [as he] grew up in Norfolk County and went on to play for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.”

However, Brush made efforts to succeed academically while continually developing as a strong football player through camps and practices. So much so, that he started to attract attention from places like the University of Western Ontario.

“I had a successful five-year career at Pauline Johnson Collegiate, as a high school athlete, but at that time, it was hard to get recruited. It wasn’t easy…I thought I didn’t have any options to go to college or university because I didn’t take school seriously enough academically until I was in the 11th Grade,” Brush explained. “I wanted to go play college football [and] give myself an opportunity. And to have the ability to even go to a university like Western was incredible. I started to take more visits at different programs across Ontario and go to a bunch of practices and camps getting evaluated.”

Dakota Brush played a total of 29 games with the Mount Allison Mounties and helped them defeat the St. Francis Xavier X-Men to win the AUS Loney Bowl in 2014. Photo courtesy Mount Allison University.

Despite making the initial decision to go to the University of Western Ontario, Brush ended up changing direction after a meaningful discussion with the Mount Allison University Mounties’ football coach.

“I called [him and he] wanted me to come to see what they were all about. This was a Wednesday [and by] Friday I was on a plane to New Brunswick. When I got there, I made an immediate connection with the team and the school. It was where I wanted to be,” he continued. “I remember driving back with my mom from the airport where she picked me up, I told her that I would be choosing Mount Allison. She was in shock [because] she was emotional about the interest from Western.”

Choosing Mount Allison would prove to be the right path, as Brush would establish himself as a two-time all-star and would help the team claim the AUS (Atlantic University Sport) Loney Bowl in 2014. He would also meet his future partner, Sierra, there as well, who would provide Brush with strong support through the years. 

Brush is pictured here with his partner Sierra whom he met while attending Mount Allison University. Photo courtesy Brush family.

However, despite the success in various aspects of his university career, Brush would experience personal tragedy.

“Those four years were probably the hardest four years of my life. During my second year, my mom passed away from cancer. And it was very tough. Like I said before, she was a single parent, she raised me and my sister pretty much all alone. She was our rock. She was my rock,” said Brush.

Still with a heavy heart, Brush preserved through the next few years in university and would eventually get noticed by some teams in the Canadian Football League (CFL) during the regional combine in Montreal. Brush would then realize a dream of his when he was drafted.

“In 2017, I was drafted by the British Columbia Lions 51st overall. That was a very exciting experience. Then 2018 was a pretty hectic year; I played for the Lions and ended up going to the Ottawa Redblacks for the last eight weeks of the season. We ended up making it to the Grey Cup that year, but lost to the Calgary Stampeders,” said Brush.

After his time playing at the university level, Brush was drafted 51st overall by the BC Lions of the CFL. He would go on to play 14 games for the Lions over two seasons and seven games for the Ottawa RedBlack. Photo courtesy BC Lions/ CFL/ Getty Images.

He would get cut by the Ottawa Redblacks after the season; despite several teams expressing interest, however, Brush decided to call it a career from professional football. At this point, Brush was in his early 20’s and thought about what he would do next for his career.

Brush would take on various jobs as a UPS delivery driver and a personal trainer for several years in Brantford, but he continually looked at his options until he solidified his direction as a police officer and a football coach.

“I was trying to figure out what I was trying to do next, but I knew the one thing that was always going to be there was football in some capacity. It’s what has given me the most joy,” he explained. “Although I was kind of struggling to find where I was professionally, I knew that ultimately, I wanted to service people [and] help serve young men and in my community through the game of football.”

After his playing days, Brush decided to utilize his experience and become a coach in the Brantford community. Here he is working with one of the players within the Brantford Bisons football program. Photo courtesy Kinrade Kreations.

Brush would eventually become the Varsity Director of the Brantford Bisons program fulfilling his vision of mentoring and helping positively guide youth. However, in 2020, enhanced his goal of helping the community as he became a member of the Brantford Police Service as a Police Constable.

“Getting hired by the Brantford Police Service changed my life and provided me with a level of direction that I didn’t know was even available to me,” Brush said. “Ultimately, the game of football helped me translate into a career in policing; having the ability to work and communicate with a diverse group of people, learning how to battle adversity, and learning how to prepare.”

As Brush continues to grow as a community leader, the memory of his mother still burns brightly and has provided him an opportunity to focus on helping others.

“The passing of my mom can be looked at as one of those hidden blessings…I know she’s always going to be there pushing me and motivating me [and helping me] to move forward,” Brush explained. “I continue to try to do everything I can to be a good role model and give back to the community [and to] help people who may have grown up in a situation like mine; showing these young men and women, that there’s a lot out there to experience [and to help them make] good decisions [and] to continue to [show them how to} improve and lead better lives.”

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