Cen­tre of at­ten­tion

Ex-line­man Comiskey to en­ter Hall of Fame af­ter play­ing in CFL

The Chatham Daily News - - SPORTS - MARK MALONE mmalone@post­media.com

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.

POST­MEDIA NET­WORK FILE PHOTO

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.

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