January 25, 2007

Federkeil has opportunity of a lifetime

By Jaime Stein

A professional football player will endure a lifetime of struggles with the hopes of making it to a championship game. Most, however, will never realize their dream.

For Dan Federkeil, the fifth overall draft pick in the 2006 CFL Canadian Draft, he has an opportunity to do what only one other graduate of Canadian Interuniversity Sport has done: win a Super Bowl ring.

Tyrone Williams was a member of the Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl team in 1994. He is also the only player to win a Super Bowl ring, a Grey Cup ring (1996, Toronto) and a Vanier Cup ring (1989, University of Western Ontario).

Federkeil’s Indianapolis Colts will face the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI on February 4th in Miami. As the final moments of last weekend’s AFC Championship game unraveled in the Colt’s stunning come-from-behind victory over the New England Patriots, the usually calm Federkeil could not contain his emotions while standing on the sideline.

“I was on pins and needles until (running back) Joe (Addai) finally got into the end zone,” he recalled from his home in Indianapolis as he prepared to leave for Miami. “It was just crazy once Joe got in. About half an hour after we were done I finally calmed down and turned back to normal. I’m pretty sure my heart will be beating pretty good next week.”

For the 23-year-old Federkeil, the rarity of his situation has yet to set in.

“It is more meaningful for the guys that have been on the team for eight or 10 years,” he said. “The looks on their faces and their reaction to the win, it means a lot more to them than it probably does to me.”

Federkeil, whose CFL rights are owned by the Toronto Argonauts, might want to swap stories with a couple of potential teammates along the line to find out how fortunate he is. Chad Folk won a Grey Cup championship in his first year in the CFL before waiting seven more years to hoist the famous trophy again while Jude St. John played 10 seasons before appearing in a Grey Cup game.

The former University of Calgary Dino has dressed for one playoff game, but the combination of a hip injury and the return of starter Ryan Lilja will likely force Federkeil off the dress roster for the season finale. Nevertheless, he stands to earn nearly $40,000 which will be given to players on the active roster for participation in the game. If the Colts win the Super Bowl Federkeil will collect nearly $70,000.

When put in perspective, Federkeil stands to make more for this single game than he likely would have earned as a rookie over an entire season in the CFL. That does not deter the native of Medicine Hat, Alberta to rule out a return to the three-down game.

“Personally, I love the Canadian game,” he said. “I have no issues going back home and playing in the CFL. If it doesn’t work out (in the NFL), it’s definitely an option. I know when I came down here and things weren’t going that great I was thinking well, at least I’ve got another team to go back to.”

What makes his story even more intriguing is that Federkeil was a five-year starter along the defensive line in university. He was drafted by the Argonauts as a defensive lineman, but former CFL head coach Cal Murphy saw another use for his talents. Murphy convinced the Indianapolis brass to give Federkeil a chance to make the team as an offensive lineman. It was a long shot at best for the kid from Canada.

“Coming down here, it really is a big deal for Canadian football if I can succeed where not a lot of guys have even been given a chance,” Federkeil said. “I know that’s big for the guys back home.”

Federkeil has suffered no outward bias being from Canada, but he often endures some good natured ribbing about his homeland from his teammates, in the form of, ‘What do you know, you’re from Canada.’

He insists that the hardest part of adjusting to life in the NFL thus far has been learning how to play on the opposite side of the ball.

“There was a lot of yelling from the coaches to begin with but all and all I have come a long way,” he added. “It was two weeks after the bye week (in Week 6) when I finally got settled down where I got to a point where the coaches had confidence in me. A couple of weeks later I got to start dressing and taking some reps.”

Federkeil’s only game action has come on the field goal team, protecting kicker Adam Vinatieri, the catalyst for three Super Bowl wins in four years for the New England Patriots. The difference between wearing a ring and simply collecting runner-up money could rest with Vinatieri in Super Bowl XLI, but that has never crossed the mind of Federkeil.

“I’m not much of a hero worshipper type guy,” he declared, further explaining that a field goal team is a field goal team no matter who is kicking the ball.

Federkeil will likely be joined by his parents Judy and Hubert and his brothers Mike and Rick in Miami at the Super Bowl. It will mark the third championship game he has been a part of including a victory as part of Team Alberta’s entry at the U-19 Canada Cup. He was on the losing end of the provincial high school championships when he attended Medicine Hat High School.

“I know my mom was, to say the least, excited about the win. She’s probably more excited about it than I am,” said the leveled Federkeil who credits the demeanor of his head coach for keeping things calm.

“Tony (Dungy) said, ‘don’t get the highs get too high and don’t let the lows get too low;’ that’s just the type of coach that he is.”

Federkeil has two years remaining on a three year contract with the Colts, but this is of little concern. For now, he is off to the Super Bowl.

Jaime Stein is the the play-by-play voice of the Toronto Argonauts.