November 23, 2012

Landry: Kackert’s philosophy paying off for Ray

Adam Gagnon/

The Argonauts’ philosophy-loving, pass-blocking running back, Chad Kackert, doesn’t know anything about Frederick Nietzsche.

“I’d be alright if you brought up Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, stuff like that,” he said, in response to a query about the 19th century German philosopher. Not that I know anything about Nietzsche, either. He was just the first philosopher that came to mind when I asked about Kackert’s favourites.

If Kackert, who decided to self-educate himself on some of the great philosophers – “I majored in phys ed so I started to pursue it on my own” – decided to look up Nietzsche, he might be interested in the theory of “eternal recurrence.”

It might dovetail nicely with Kackert’s blitz pick up experience in last week’s Eastern Final against the Montreal Alouettes. The Als just kept sending extra quarterback hunters over and over, and Kackert kept stepping into the fray.

“Last week, I think, was my biggest challenge, against Montreal,” he said. “It felt like they were bringing the house every play. I counted how many times I had “cut” attempts (diving blocks intended to upend a rushing defender) on blitzers and there were eleven. Eleven out of, I think, twelve or thirteen times they blitzed me. I think that was a personal record for me.”

The more spectacular aspects of Kackert’s game, rushing and piling up yards after catch, have a lot more to do with blessed talent than thought. The ball is handed or thrown to him and he reacts, usually quite quickly.

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Blocking, on the other hand, is very much about decisions and the smarts that back those decisions up. Make the right decision and you still need to physically step up, that’s true. Make the wrong decision and it no longer matters. Quarterback Ricky Ray is flattened.

In Head Coach Scott Milanovich’s offence, the blocking success of a blitz-hunting running back is of rather large importance and he likes that Kackert has been a quick study.

“He’s gotten better and better every week. He’s not the biggest guy. But, you can see it, his progression over the weeks. Since he’s become more comfortable understanding who he has (in a blocking assignment) it’s enabled him to get in position to be able to make the blocks he needs to make,” said Milanovich.

For his part, Kackert believes he had a decent grasp on the idea of pass blocking right from the get go in his first regular season start after Cory Boyd was released. That start, coincidentally, was against this weekend’s opponent, the Calgary Stampeders. However, he knows he had room for improvement.

“I’ve definitely learned a lot about it since (the Calgary game). I would say at that point I was pretty set on the mental aspect of it and just where to be. But, even still, I’ve noticed more comfort in that responsibility, just the knowledge part of it.”

Kackert looked a little skeptical when it was suggested that stretching the boundaries of his mind with a little light, philosophical reading from 300 B.C. might allow for him to absorb the knowledge he’s needed to hone and apply his pass blocking skills. But, after a thoughtful pause, he embraced the notion.

“Yeah, it relates to every aspect of life, I think. I think if you’ve got a good grasp on virtue, then that can apply to anything. So, whether it’s overcoming adversity or understanding what can happen in a battle and how to respond, it can relate to anything in life,” he said.

Including cut blocking a blitzing free safety, the way he blew up the Alouettes’ Kyries Hebert in spectacular fashion last week. Kackert hit the highlight reels with that one, but insists it wasn’t any more special than any successful completed assignment.

“I think all of them are good if they’re not touching Ricky,” he shrugged. “Maybe some of them are more fun to watch than others.”

Seems the 26-year-old Simi Valley, California native appreciates the intellectual side of wiping a guy out, too.

“It’s a game within the game, blocking guys,” he explained. “You’ve got to study film on how they come at guys and what they’re going to do against guys of different sizes and whatnot.”

Sounds like another way to exercise that mind of his. When he’s not into film study, these days Kackert has a go-to guy in the literary field.

“My favourite intelligent mind would probably be C.S. Lewis right now. I’ve enjoyed reading his stuff. He does a really good job with metaphors and analogies and taking complex ideas and simplifying them. I always find myself feeling refreshed and more knowledgeable and getting a little closer to gaining some wisdom when I read what he has to say.”

Not sure how Milanovich feels about his tailback’s intellectual pursuits or if he even cares but we do know that he has an appreciation for work ethic and executing the little details just right. Kackert gets a thumbs up on that from the coach.

“It’s not just about getting a hand on a guy before he hits Ricky, but getting him close to the line of scrimmage where there’s plenty of separation where Ricky can finish his throwing motion and complete the balls he has to. Chad understood that was priority number one to be the tailback in this offence and he has worked very, very hard at it,” said Milanovich.

When asked whether he expects as many blitz pick up challenges as he had in the Eastern Final, Kackert answers in the negative. He parts ways with his coach with that line of thinking, as Milanovich described the Stampeders as a team that likes to send its linebackers and half backs in search of sacks.

“Their defence isn’t too different,” began Kackert. “But I think Montreal really likes to bring their blitzers. But, if that’s what Calgary wants to do against us, that’s fine. But if they’re watching the film they know it wasn’t effective last week.”

He sounded unemotional and a little detached as he said that. Philosophical, even.