TORONTO - If Chad Kackert looked a little too comfortable scoring that 73-yard game-winning touchdown Thursday night in Winnipeg, there was a reason for it.
Kackert has built his young football career on coming up big at the biggest of moments.
As a college player at New Hampshire, Kackert didn’t always get the most carries on his team but he had a real knack for scoring that end-of-the-game touchdown or converting that fourth-down gamble for his team.
So when he rumbled in from 73 yards with 33 seconds left on the clock, the feeling wasn’t exactly foreign to him.
“As far as my college career, that’s what I like to look back on, think was my strong suit,” Kackert said following a very successful Family Day at Argos camp.
“I went through a lot of injuries and didn’t accumulate a lot of stats, but when I was in, it did seem they put the ball in my hands at the end of the game and more than not it turned out great.”
Kackert had the ball in his hands five times Thursday but it wasn’t until the Argos needed him most that he busted the big one with a big block from Brandon Rideau.
The 5-foot-8, 201-pound running back has no idea if that one play earned him his spot on the Argos roster, but he does know it didn’t hurt his chances.
Kackert and Dwayne Wright were in a battle throughout camp to earn a roster spot. Gerald Riggs was in the equation early on but an injury landed him on the suspended list. Kackert though wasn’t entirely convinced it was a him-or-Wright proposition heading into the final pre-season game.
“I honestly thought they were going to keep five running backs (Cory Boyd, Jeff Johnson, Bryan Crawford, Kackert and Wright),” Kackert said. “I was surprised to hear Dwayne was released and a little upset because he was a good guy and a good running back. All the more it means I have to work harder and keep moving. What is done is done and nothing I’ve done to date counts for the season. It just got me here, but I didn’t really see it as a battle.
“We helped each other out and he probably helped me more than I helped him. He even gave me gloves when I got here. He helped me get acclimated. It was tough to see him go.”
Argos general manager and head coach Jim Barker knew it was a battle. In fact it was one of the biggest battles of training camp in his eyes and Kackert might have ended the competition on a high note, but it was his body of work from the opening of rookie camp until the end of the Winnipeg game that earned him the spot.
“It wasn’t just that run,” Barker said. “It was what he did on special teams throughout the game and throughout training camp. You get that feel for a guy.”
But Barker isn’t closing the door totally on Wright either.
“Dwane Wright is the same and he could be back here,” Barker said of that feeling. “We just felt right now for this football team, Chad fit better.”
About a year ago, Kackert had just been told his shot with the Jacksonville Jaguars was over and was on his way back to Boston where he works out when his agent informed him the Argos were interested with Cory Boyd dealing with some injury issues. Kackert immediately reconfigured his route — he was driving north from Jacksonville and planned on extending the trip a little further to Toronto.
Then came word that Calgary had him on their negotiation list and weren’t willing to give him up. He made a quick left turn and headed for Calgary.
It all spoke to his willingness to do whatever he needed to to continue the journey to his dream job. So the 20,000 miles of driving a year ago were just part of the price he paid to get this opportunity.
“When I was sitting in the meeting room yesterday coach said to everyone: ‘You’re here because we believe you are going to give us the best chance at a Grey Cup.’ This is my first time on a team and everything I have put my effort into is now done. Now I’ve got a new goal.
“I’d like to think this was an accumulation of everything that went on the last two years or even further back,” he said.