Centre of attention
Ex-lineman Comiskey to enter Hall of Fame after playing in CFL
John Comiskey loved being in the middle of the action.
He excelled at many positions during his football career, but he felt at home after being moved to centre by the Calgary Stampeders during his second CFL season in 2006.
“It was a perfect fit for me,” he said. “It was a position I really loved.”
The centre is the general of the offensive line, giving verbal and non-verbal blocking instructions to his fellow linemen. He has to read defensive formations and make decisions on the fly.
Since he’d played defence before, Comiskey was good at identifying what opponents were doing.
“I felt right in the saddle at that position,” he said. “I had a level of comfort there I didn’t have anywhere else.”
Comiskey and his older brother, Dan, will be inducted into the Chatham Sports Hall of Fame in the athlete-modern category Thursday at the WISH Centre. Dan was also an offensive lineman in the CFL.
They’re joined in the Class of 2017 by hockey player Brian Hind (athlete-legend), journalist Mike Bennett (builder) and the 2001-02 John McGregor Secondary School senior boys basketball team.
John Comiskey, 36, played five CFL seasons – three with the Stampeders and two with the Edmonton Eskimos – before knee injuries forced him to retire. He has no regrets. “I wanted to get out while I was ahead physically, and it was time,” he said.
His knees are in good enough shape for him to run around with his six-week-old daughter when she’s older.
Comiskey was born in Prince Albert, Sask. He also lived in Regina, Winnipeg and Toronto before coming to Chatham as a grade schooler.
He attended Chatham Collegiate Institute for three years and captained the Cougars to the 1997 Kent County senior football championship.
Next came two seasons with the Windsor AKO Fratmen. He helped them win the Canadian Junior Football League title in 1999.
His success with the Fratmen led to an NCAA scholarship at Rutgers University, where he was a long snapper, defensive end and outside linebacker as a freshman. When the coaching staff was fired after the season, he transferred to the University of Windsor.
Comiskey played right and left guard at Windsor. He started every game at his new position during two seasons with Lancers in 2002 and ‘03.
“I was extremely fortunate to have some really good coaches at the time at Windsor,” he said. “It was, I won’t say trial by fire, but there was a definite learning curve there. … By my second year, I was more comfortable.”
He was looking ahead to a pro career when he became a guard.
“It was my decision, and that was a decision calculated on the fact Canadian offensive linemen were a (valuable) commodity in the CFL and I knew it,” he said. “... I wanted to put myself in a draftable position because I wanted to play in the CFL.”
Themovepaidoff.TheStampeders drafted him in the third round, 19th overall, in 2005 after he sat out the 2004 season.
They used him as a backup guard as a rookie. He was also a fullback on short-yardage and goal-line situations, and even saw action at tight end.
“I was a receiver, a fullback, a linebacker. I played defensive line, I played offensive line. I got around,” he said about his career.
“I was comfortable enough when a coach called on me to play a position, I never turned down an opportunity. That’s how I made my name.”
Comiskey started every game at centre in his second season. He started in his third season, too, when he was healthy.
A trade to the Eskimos for his fourth season reunited him with his brother Dan, a veteran left guard.
“When we were able to play next to each other, all those games were memorable,” Comiskey said.
He was the Eskimos’ nominee for the CFL’s outstanding offensive lineman in 2008. That proved to be his final healthy season.
Knee injuries forced him into a backup role in 2009 and he rarely played. He signed with the Stampeders for the 2010 season but retired before playing another game.
He now lives in Chatham and works at Thompsons Limited as a corporate health and safety manager.
Former Edmonton Eskimos offensive linemen John Comiskey (62) and Dan Comiskey (67) will be inducted into the Chatham Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday at the WISH Centre. They're pictured during a practice in October 2008.