Argonauts running back Kackert never gave up on football

 

Former Grey Cup MVP worked almost two years to play again

 
 
 
 
Toronto Argonauts running back Chad Kackert runs with the football against the Calgary Stampeders during the 2012 Grey Cup at Toronto on Nov. 25, 2012.
 
 

Toronto Argonauts running back Chad Kackert runs with the football against the Calgary Stampeders during the 2012 Grey Cup at Toronto on Nov. 25, 2012.

Photograph by: Nathan Denette, THE CANADIAN PRESS

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Chad Kackert has spent almost two years wondering, searching for an answer that was proving to be as elusive as he used to be on the football field.

The Toronto Argonauts running back was the Grey Cup’s most valuable player in 2012 and was putting together a decent season in 2013 when his playing life in the Canadian Football League was suspended with a brutal injury before the East Division final.

“Pretty much the (same as) when (Eskimos quarterback Matt) Nichols went down in 2012 when his leg was all crooked; it was similar to that except my tibia didn’t break, just the fibula did,” Kackert said on Thursday from the Argos’ hotel in Edmonton.

“So that ankle joint took the rest of the brunt. There were a lot more complications with that. There are over 100 ligaments and bones and tendons in the ankle, so it’s a lot to repair.”

Kackert, who worked out for the New York Jets a couple months after being named the Grey Cup’s MVP, announced his retirement because of the severity of his ankle injury and the Argos named him their strength and conditioning coach for the 2014 season.

His ankle screamed one thing at him (“QUIT!”), but his head, maybe his heart, continued to tell him something else.

“The idea of playing football was about impossible at that point, but I didn’t give up hope that I would get better,” he said.

Kackert did get better. He got to the point that the Argos were ready to use him in last year’s East Division final. He was one practice away from suiting up when he pulled his hamstring.

“At that point in my life, it was just kind of the way things were going,” he said. “Any time I deal with something really detrimental, I give myself a day to feel sorry for myself and then do something to make it right, get better.

“There’s no time to feel sorry for yourself for more than a day, I think.”

Kackert found out in the off-season that there wouldn’t be room for him on this year’s coaching staff. The 28-year-old still wasn’t ready to give up on football and took it as a sign that he should focus strictly on playing the game. After a so-so performance at Toronto’s mini-camp in April, it came down to one workout.

“They brought me and (receiver) Dave Stala to just do a 45-minute workout/tryout in front of the whole staff two days before the final cuts, I think,” Kackert said. “After that, I felt like I finally looked like I could play football again.”

It took 22 months, but Kackert got his answer two weeks ago in Winnipeg against the Blue Bombers. He had 12 carries for 73 yards in a 27-20 win.

“I went into that game with confidence because (the Argos staff) believed in me, even though, to be honest, I was pretty … I don’t want to say scared. I would say skeptical, very skeptical that I’d hold up.

He was late joining his teammates in the visitors’ dressing room after the game.

“I waited for everyone to clear the field. I just wanted to have a moment to myself before I went to the locker-room,” he said. “The weight of the last year and a half just disappeared.”

Scott Milanovich, a former quarterback who became the Argos head coach, understands Kackert’s journey.

“Something was taken from him and I guess I’m just happy that that wasn’t the end for him,” he said. “Hopefully, he’s got bigger and better things to put into his story.”

“I imagine I would have felt the same way had if it gone the other way,” Kackert said of that hot, muggy day in Winnipeg. “Just to have an answer. Sometimes that’s all you need, is an answer to the big questions in life.”

coleary@edmontonjournal.com

Twitter.com/olearychris

 
 
 
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Toronto Argonauts running back Chad Kackert runs with the football against the Calgary Stampeders during the 2012 Grey Cup at Toronto on Nov. 25, 2012.
 

Toronto Argonauts running back Chad Kackert runs with the football against the Calgary Stampeders during the 2012 Grey Cup at Toronto on Nov. 25, 2012.

Photograph by: Nathan Denette, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
Toronto Argonauts running back Chad Kackert runs with the football against the Calgary Stampeders during the 2012 Grey Cup at Toronto on Nov. 25, 2012.
Toronto Argonauts running back Chad Kackert gets tackled by Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Demond Washington during a Canadian Football League game at Winnipeg Friday on Aug. 14, 2015.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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