UNASSUMING HUNCHAK HAS FOOTBALL SAVVY IN SPADES
Last pick in this year’s CFL draft has a chance to stick with hometown Stamps
There’s what you saw at the CFL combine and measures of absolute strength, power, speed.
(Colton Hunchak was not atop any of those lists.)
And there was the CFL 2019 draft order.
(Hunchak was last — eighth round, 73rd overall.)
There are his physical dimensions — five-foot-10 and 190 pounds — which are neither undersized nor staggering for a receiver.
But what was only visible to a team like the Calgary Stampeders, who have known the 21-year-old Calgarian since he was making plays for Notre Dame High School, were his intangibles.
His work ethic. His smarts on the field. His ability to read plays. His demeanour.
So of course they were willing to take a chance.
“Size, speed, those things, he’s probably not going to jump off the chart on any of those,” said Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson. “But I played with Geroy (Simon) … and Geroy wasn’t the fastest receiver I ever played with.
“But somehow he never got caught.”
The point Dickenson was making on Tuesday as the Stampeders hit the field for another day of training camp is that Hunchak is football savvy.
“You’re given what you’re given … some guys are going to be burners and some guys aren’t,” he added. “But he’s got toughness, good hands and definitely understands football.
“He’s working hard and I like what I’m seeing. I’m sure he’ll have a lot of fun and we’ll see how he does in pre-season.”
For Hunchak, it was a thrill to be drafted by his hometown CFL team. Between his grandpa Chris, dad Todd and his 21/2-year-old daughter Zyra in the stands, he has a contingent of supporters on a daily basis.
In fact, his family is his main source of inspiration.
“That started 21/2 years ago when I had my daughter,” he said. “I was looking at my grades (at York University), I went to straight ‘A’s and ‘B’s (when she was born) after being a ‘C’ and ‘D’ student. Subconsciously, it gave me a different level of drive and now I don’t do everything for myself — I have to support a little girl and it definitely puts me in a different mode.”
The Stampeders host the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday at McMahon Stadium, which will give Hunchak the ability to show what he’s learned so far this spring — and how he is willing to make an impact.
“You get so many reps in practice and are doing stuff over and over … to put everything we’ve been doing in camp and see how it all comes together is going to be nice,” he said. “I’m just excited to compete for a job on the team, whether that be on special (teams) or the receiving corps. Whichever comes my way, I’m going to take it in stride and do my best.”
Hunchak had a respectable university career at York and was a two-time second-team Ontario University Athletics all-star. This followed three appearances in the city finals and provincials in high school, where he participated in Dickenson’s passing academy.
At the CFL showcase, Hunchak blended in. But the Stamps knew better.
“People look at all the sexy testing numbers at the combine,” said Calgary receivers coach Pete Constanza.
“If you put that aside, and even when Colton was playing here in high school and we had him at Dave’s camps, you could tell that he was a savvy football player. You watch college film and you see the same thing on film.
“When you have a guy that you have a little experience with and you know he’s a smart football player, a lot of times, those smarts will help compensate for lack of testing. But he’s fast enough, he’s big enough to play the position.”
Time will tell. Friday will be their first real, live-action evaluation to see if players can handle the pressure and speed when the lights are on.
“With Colton — and, really, the rest of the guys — can you get into a game and function at a high level?” Costanza said.
“Obviously, game speed is going to pick up. But it’s still football.
“Come out on game day and do the same thing you do on the practice field: run the right routes and catch the football, don’t have any fumbles and play smart Stampeder football.
“That’s what I look (for) from all of them.”
You’re given what you’re given … some guys are going to be burners and some guys aren’t.