Grey Cup MVP Chad Kackert has come a long way, baby

Argonauts running back Chad Kackert falls after being tackled by Stampeders linebacker Charleston...

Argonauts running back Chad Kackert falls after being tackled by Stampeders linebacker Charleston Hughes during the Grey Cup game at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont., Nov. 25, 2012. (STAN BEHAL/QMI Agency)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:53 PM ET

TORONTO - The Calgary Stampeders sent out a press release on Oct. 7, 2010, announcing the signing of three players to the practice roster.

The biggest name was linebacker Siddeeq Shabazz, who had spent time with the Edmonton Eskimos and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Next was defensive lineman Khari Long, who had played the previous season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Then, kind of as an afterthought, was Chad Kackert. The release said he had a "brief stint" with the Jacksonville Jaguars after a four-year career at the University of New Hampshire.

Ninety-nine times out of 100, the third player on a press release like that doesn't end up doing much in the CFL. Kackert is the exception.

The 26-year-old from Simi Valley, Calif., was named the Grey Cup's most valuable player Sunday night after rushing 20 times for 133 yards and catching a game-high eight passes for 62 more. Add it all up, and he finished with 195 combined yards.

Kackert became just the second running back to be named Grey Cup MVP since 2000, with Montreal's Avon Cobourne taking home the honour in 2009.

Not only was he the third player in a mid-season press release, but Kackert wasn't even Toronto's starting running back at the beginning of the season. That job belonged to Cory Boyd, but it was quite evident new head coach Scott Milanovich had become comfortable with Kackert.

So he cut Boyd in August ... when Boyd was the CFL's rushing leader.

Kackert didn't last very long in Calgary two years ago due to a hamstring injury, but Argos general manager Jim Barker knew enough about him to sign him. The Double Blue signed him on Valentine's Day, 2011.

It may not have been love at first sight, but it is now.

Kackert fumbled twice in his CFL debut on July 15, 2011, against Montreal, including once on the goal line. Barker, who was the coach at the time, essentially told him to stop fumbling or he would be cut, even though he was filling in for an injured Boyd.

So he stopped fumbling, and now he'll be the toast of the town. He admitted he felt he was going to lose his job last year.

"Yes. I'll be honest," he said. "If you're not getting a chance to play, there's nothing you can prove or disprove. You hope you get that opportunity, and thankfully mine came and I had my whole team behind my back to help me throughout it."

It was in early August, when the 5-foot-8 tailback was on his way to Wakestock, a wakeboarding event in Collingwood, Ont., when his phone rang.

It was Milanovich. Kackert's girlfriend, Natalie, thought he was losing his job. Kackert thought he was calling to see if he was in the U.S. and could maybe pick something up at duty free.

It turned out Milanovich was calling to tell him he was the team's new No. 1 tailback.

And now he's the Grey Cup MVP.

"I just did my part," Kackert said. "I heard the stats, and I guess I had the ball in my hand 28 hands. My legs are going to feel that (Monday), but I got a whole off-season to fix that."

Argos quarterback Ricky Ray, who won his third Grey Cup ring, had plenty of praise for the MVP.

"He's unbelievable," Ray said. "He's so dangerous in the backfield. He has the ability to make so many explosive plays, and that's been the difference maker for us offensively. Just adding him and the weapon he is just made us even more harder to defend."

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/PentonKirk


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