Height doesn't matter

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

When the Winnipeg Blue Bombers didn't draft offensive lineman Kyle Koch in the CFL draft on May 2, the phone rang at the team's reception desk on Maroons Road.

It was someone from Kenora, Ont., upset that the Bombers had passed on the northwest Ontario city's favourite football son. The caller was so mad at the Bombers for overlooking Koch that he was going to cancel his season tickets and encourage everyone else in Kenora to do the same.

"It's kind of funny," Koch said yesterday with a chuckle. "I don't even know, to this day, who it was."

The good news for that hopping-mad Kenoran was that Bombers GM Brendan Taman was already in the process of signing the 6-foot-1, 300-pound guard as a free agent, and the deal was completed the next day.

It came as a relief to Koch, who watched in horror as the draft unfolded live on the Internet and his name wasn't called.

"It was a long day," Koch said. "I had people telling me I was going to go somewhere like late first round or mid-third round at the latest. So as the day wore on I really didn't know what to think. I still really don't know what happened."

"It was a pretty big low there that night, and then the next morning I was pretty excited."

Koch spent the last four years with the McMaster University Marauders in Hamilton, Ont., where he was an All-Canadian in 2005 and 2006. He was also the lineman of the year in the Ontario University Athletics conference in 2005.

Taman said the reason why no team took a chance on Koch in the draft is because he's 6-foot-1. Koch has shown in the first week of training camp that height doesn't matter.

"He's gotten a lot better in just the short period that I've had him, and he has the willingness to learn and the toughness to be a good player," offensive line coach Bob Wylie said. "He just needs to work. He's young. Young kids will make young mistakes, and he's fighting through it. He's hanging in there with us. That's good."

The question now is whether Koch will get the three or four years of experience that Canadian O-linemen need to develop into starting CFLers. Head coach Doug Berry, a former O-line coach in Montreal, knows that much time is needed, but there are only so many roster spots to go around.

"He's got the body mass," Berry said. "He's over 300 pounds. He's not tall, but there's a lot of linemen playing in this league that aren't tall. And he's got the attitude and things that ... who knows, down the road he might become a guy. He'll get time."

The Bombers organization likely hopes Koch sticks around, because the man from Kenora who called to complain on draft day phoned back after Koch signed on.

He said there will be "busloads" of people coming from Kenora to watch one of their own take to the field.


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