June 1, 2014

A new direction: Kackert retires, joins Argos staff

Andrew Lahodynskyj/Argonauts.ca

CFL.ca Staff

TORONTO — The Toronto Argonauts announced Sunday morning that 100th Grey Cup MVP Chad Kackert has retired, and will join the team’s coaching staff as their new Strength & Conditioning Coach.

“I would like to thank Chad for his hard work and professionalism while serving our football team as a player. When it was clear to both us and Chad that his leg injury would prevent him from competing at a high level we began to discuss his desire to remain close to the game, said Argos head coach Scott Milanovich.

“We’re excited that he will join our staff as Strength & Conditioning Coach, and we believe his experience will be valuable to our players in helping them prepare themselves physically each week,” he added.

Kackert, 27, will remain with the Argos as their strength-and-conditioning coach. He’ll also continue working to rehab his leg and hasn’t completely closed the door on resuming his pro career.

“Never say never,” he said. “I just don’t feel like I’m anywhere close to being ready to play football, it’s an issue of range of motion, to be specific.

“I want my leg to get better just because who wants to walk around on a gimpy leg the rest of his life? If it’s sooner rather than later then I will re-evaluate but as of right I’m going to get my leg better and coach this team as far as strength and conditioning goes,” he told The Canadian Press Sunday.

Despite playing just three seasons in Toronto, Kackert quickly emerged as an offensive threat. He rushed for 1,467 yards on 228 carries — an impressive 6.4-yard average — with 12 touchdowns while adding 50 receptions for 454 yards, two TDs.

“Chad was a home-run hitter,” Milanovich said. “He’d get a crease and could go to the house and that’s nice.

“He also brought an intangible. The players loved seeing him succeed. When he got the ball and did well, it just kind of ignited our football team. We’ll see who’s around to replace that but we’ll certainly miss those things.”

Kackert rushed for 638 yards on 100 carries during the 2012 season _ both career highs _ but was at his best in the playoffs.

He ran for 139 yards and a TD in Toronto’s 27-20 road win over Montreal in the East Division final. The next week before over
50,000 fans at Rogers Centre, Kackert was named the MVP of the 100th Grey Cup game, rushing for 133 yards on 20 carries and recording eight catches for 62 yards in the Argos’ 35-22 win over the Calgary Stampeders.

Kackert appeared in just nine games last year, rushing for 480 yards rushing on 71 carries (6.8-yard average) as Toronto (11-7) finished atop the East Division to secure home-field for the conference final. But Kackert didn’t play in the Argos’ 36-24 loss to Hamilton, breaking his left leg during practice.

“It was a no-contact practice, freak injury,” Kackert said. “I was just running a route, didn’t see the defensive end running his twist.

“We knocked shoulders and my foot caught the turf and that was it.”

His career totals include 228 carries for 1,467 yards with 12 touchdowns, along with 50 catches for 454 yards and 2 touchdowns over three seasons. In all, he dressed in 24 regular season games, two playoff games and one Grey Cup game for Toronto.

“It remains my primary goal to do my part in helping to get Toronto back to the Grey Cup. Because I’ve suffered a serious injury, my part will not be played directly on the field but as a Strength & Conditioning Coach. I want to thank General Manager Jim Barker and Head Coach Scott Milanovich for the opportunity to contribute to the success of this team in a position that I’m passionate about,” said Kackert.

The California native played four years at New Hampshire and was named Second-Team All-Conference as a senior. Following college, he attended training camp with the NFL’s Jackson Jaguars and also spent time with the Calgary Stampeders.

Milanovich wasn’t surprised about Kackert’s retirement.

“I wasn’t expecting him to be here as a player,” Milanovich said. “It was a very serious injury, particularly with his style of playing using his quickness and speed, and we were planning all along, unfortunately, to have to replace him.”

But not let him go altogether. Milanovich said he and GM Jim Barker began discussing about two weeks ago the possibility of offering the immensely popular Kackert the strength-and-conditioning position.

“Kack is such an integral part of our team,” Milanovich said. “Kack is too good a person to not find a way to let him and make him be a part of this.

“That’s where it started and we were lucky it was something he was interested in.”

Very interested, as it turns out.

“It’s very important to me because I’ve fallen in love with this city and I’ve kind of established a home base out here,” he said. “Jim is never going to make a decision that’s going to hinder the team or not get it to the Grey Cup.

“I’m really honoured to be able to stay here and help get the guys back to where we need to go.”

However, Kackert admitted it felt a little odd Sunday in his new job.

“It’s a little tiring standing for three, four hours straight,” he said with a chuckle. “But it felt good, the guys are buying in and I appreciate that from them.

“They’re calling me, ‘Coach,’ already and asking me for workout tips. It will be fun. I’m going to learn a lot, they’re going to learn a lot.”

Teammate Chad Owens was shocked to learn of Kackert’s decision

“He told me about it (Saturday) and I was kind of lost for words,” Owens said. “It’s sad because injuries happen in this game, we all understand that . . . but there are certain guys you pray and hope nothing but great things for just because they’re good people.

“Kack is probably the most genuine person I’ve ever encountered. He is the epitome of a team player. I’m going to miss going into battle with him out there on the field because he brought everything he had. He was a playmaker.”

– With files from The Canadian Press and Argonauts.ca