Former CFL defensive back Sebastian Clovis compares football to the home renovation work he is currently doing as host, creator and Executive Producer of Gut Job on HGTV Canada. Since retiring from football, he returned to his love of renovating and skyrocketed to fame when he became the host of Tackle My Reno, followed by co-hosting Save My Reno and becoming a member of the all-star cast of Home to Win and Family Home Overhaul.
“The things that always stayed with me after football is how to motivate a team,” says Sebastian Clovis. “That’s something that is not unique to football, but with football you have many different players and so many different people doing so many different things on the field. Same thing on a renovation site. Same thing with running a production company. Everybody has a very specific skill set, but we all have one goal in mind. We must work together to communicate and operate within a team construct. There’s a team of people with specialized skills who come together to make the magic happen.”
Sebastian played pro ball for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the B.C. Lions with whom he won the Grey Cup in 2006. “Coached by Wally Buono,” reminisces Sebastian “it really was a team where we had a feeling right at the beginning of the year that we had what it takes to win the championship – going out every game and knowing it’s up to us to leave it on the field and make sure that we put our best effort forward. It was an incredible experience in life for me and it taught me the value of teamwork and manifestation. To keep a positive mind and if you do that, you can succeed.”
At the age of 12, Sebastian began playing football for the Scarborough Thunders. Today he still does some guest coaching. “Post retirement from the CFL I’ve done everything from guest coach to help coordinate defenses. I give as much time as I can because that’s what is expected of us. It’s important to pass on that torch. I love it! I’m at that phase now where I can say that kids keep you young. They also humble you and let you know that you are not quite as young or as fast as you once were.”
For pro football to HGTV host
So the obvious question is, how did Sebastian transition from being a professional football player to doing home renovations and hosting his own show on TV?
“When I was 14, I worked as an apprentice for a master builder, and worked for him every summer and for a year after high school,” he answers. “Before I even graduated from high school, I was already installing windows and doors and helping do kitchen renovations. I kind of forgot about it when my football career took off. But once I retired from the CFL I bought a house in Toronto and thought I’d like to renovate it; a light bulb went off when I realized—yes, I forgot—I know how to renovate houses! I know I am dating myself, but when I learned how to renovate as a kid we were framing with nails and hammers. There was no such thing as nail guns then. I learned the old school way. When I opened my own renovation business post football, the whole renovation business had changed and was so much better.”
And in terms of landing the TV show gig, that came about quite by chance.
“I was renovating in my neighbourhood and one of my neighbours knocked on my door who was working behind the scenes as a carpenter on an HGTV show,” explains Sebastian. “He had to leave town and he asked if I could take over on the show and so I did it. That show came to an end and I went back to my regular work. Then I ran into a director who was working on a renovation show called Disaster DIY Extreme, which was Bryan Baeumler’s old show. One thing turned into the next. Seven days after that conversation, HGTV asked me take over the hosting duties of DIY Extreme and I just brought so much flavour and character to it that they decided to change the title of the show to Tackle My Reno to fit my work a little bit better. A TV show wasn’t something I pursued or even thought was possible. It just kind of happened one day.”
Asked to describe his personality, surprisingly Sebastian answers: “It’s a paradox. People who know me best would describe me as very quiet, contemplative, loving and hard working. Viewers who know me from the shows think that I’m very talkative and outgoing, charismatic and funny. I always put my best foot forward and try to do what’s right and make sure that everybody around me is set up to be successful.”
On his new show Gut Job, Sebastian and his crew tackle every type of renovation, large or small, from kitchen or bathroom renos to total gut jobs.
“I just love the metamorphous and that transition from old to new,” he states. “There’s something about taking a house that is old, decrepit and broken down and opening it up like surgery and breathing new life into it and seeing it go from something that’s on its last legs to something that will last for generations.”
Asked about the most challenging renovation he’s encountered to date, Sebastian answers: “We did a house on Season One of Gut Job where we were doing a main floor renovation, and we were just going to clean up the basement and a bathroom. When we opened the walls, we realized that the house had undergone what I can only describe as a DIY underpin and the entire house was sitting on old bricks and what looked like barrels of concrete that were not even connected. The whole house was crumbing! It went from a regular main floor renovation with a few touch ups to completely removing the exterior walls of the house and essentially rebuilding it. It was scary. When we saw how fragile that foundation was, we had to consider our own safety and how we were going to structurally strengthen the foundation. We had to come up with some smart solutions to get that project done for the homeowners. I am proud of the work my team and I did on that project. That might have been the most harrowing experiences I’ve encountered in my renovation career.”
You could call Gut Job a reality show.
“I think the reason why a lot of people resonate with Gut Job is because it’s so authentic as we are showing the real journey,” explains Sebastian. “There’s nothing fake about the problems we encounter. I think what makes Gut Job is unique is that we explore the relationship that happens on a renovation show. There are so many relationships that are pivotal to ensure the outcome is what everybody wants, from the designer to the contractor to the homeowner. There’s a lot of trust that goes into the relationship between the builder and the homeowner. Many of the conversations that we have on Gut Job we are having for the first time with homeowners on camera. That’s why Gut Job feels so real.”
Gut Job Season 2 on HGTV
Season 2 of Gut Job will air in 2024 on HGTV Canada. Says Sebastian: “It will be a bit different as it will be my own production company that filmed and created the show. What’s also different is that I am doing one of my own renovations and my own house is featured.”
Now that Sebastian runs his own TV production company his dream is to create more television shows to showcase new talent in Canada. “I would like to feature my beloved partner, Ayanna Augustine. Ayanna is the interior designer who heads up the design team on Gut Job and is owner of the design firm St. Augustine. “We have known each other since we were 16 years old, and I’ve loved every single day of that time. I am excited to see what she can do with design television.”
The former CFL player and renovation superstar talks about what he’s most proud of: “The achievement I am most proud of is graduating from university, playing professional football and winning the Grey Cup. And then building, hosting and producing Gut Job. I never thought that I would run a production company and be able to manage that budget and that type of a team to create some fantastic TV. Running the production team and getting the season done on time and on budget and being as fresh and creative as it is; that’s very exciting and it’s my biggest life accomplishment.”
You can catch episodes of Gut Job, Season 1 on STACKTV. Season 2 will premiere in late 2024 on HGTV Canada.
by Laurie Wallace-Lynch