TORONTO — Heading into the 100th Grey Cup, most of the attention was focused on quarterbacks Ricky Ray and Kevin Glenn, the Canadian Football League’s 2012 Most Outstanding Player Chad Owens, and the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian Jon Cornish.
However, it was Toronto Argonauts starting running back Chad Kackert that stole the show in front of 53,208 fans at the Rogers Centre, as the Argos defeated the Calgary Stampeders 35-22 to win the franchise’s sixteenth Grey Cup.
Kackert finished the game with 133 yards rushing on 20 carries and 62 receiving yards on eight receptions for a total of 195 yards from scrimmage and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Despite his accomplishment, Kackert — who became only the third running back to be named Grey Cup MVP — remained humble in victory.
“It’s just a coincidence the MVP came my way because everybody did their part,” Kackert said at the post-game press conference. “I’m sure there’s a lot of guys that did a better job at their position than I did today. … Everybody wants to prove themselves, but this isn’t golf or tennis. We got a whole team out there doing everything they can to get a win.”
The stocky 26-year-old finished the regular season with a respectable 638 yards on 100 carries, but took his play to another level in the playoffs.
In the East semifinal against the Edmonton Eskimos he had 88 yards on the ground and a touchdown, plus 51 receiving yards and a TD. The next week in the East Final against the Montreal Alouettes he had 154 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown.
Although he never broke into the end zone against the Stampeders, Kackert’s running wore down the opposing defence and resulted in the Argos being able to spread the ball around through the air.
“Coach (Scott Milanovich) does such a good job game planning each week and he tries to design ways to get Chad out on the edge because we’re going to run the ball between the tackles, but we’ve got to have some plays to get him on the perimeter and we were able to do that a few times tonight,” Ray said.
“As far as the passing game went, he does such a good job in pass protection, but he also has to leak out and be my safety valve on a lot of plays. I had to be patient on some plays and was able to give him some opportunities to catch it underneath and what he does with it after is pretty awesome.”
In the first quarter Owens scored on a five-yard pass from Ray, late in the second quarter Dontrelle Inman caught a one-yard pass from Jarious Jackson, and in the fourth quarter Andre Durie caught a seven-yarder from Ray to put the game on ice.
None of those scoring drives would have resulted in touchdowns, though, had it not been for Kackert’s ability to break through the line of scrimmage, accelerate off the edge and catch passes out of the backfield.
“You can’t really key on anyone in this offence and thankfully I found some open space and Ricky found me and got the ball to me,” Kackert said. “I just did my part.”
The native of Simi Valley, Calif., took over as the Argos starting running back in August after the team released Cory Boyd in a surprise move, considering Boyd was leading the CFL in rushing at the time.
“It got tough at the beginning of the season. I thought I was going to be more a part of this team,” Kackert explained. “When the weeks go by you think ‘well I played well last year, I guess nobody trusts I can do my job or maybe the guys ahead of me are better.’ But I got an opportunity to do what I’ve been working hard to do since I was a kid.”
With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Argos were 7-9 and it wasn’t even a certainty that they would make the playoffs. But, over the last five weeks Kackert and his Argos teammates played their best football of the season.
“We’ve been on a rhythm since Saskatchewan, since we knew we had to win to get in,” Kackert said. “Ever since that moment we realized the opportunity we had ahead of us and this being the final destination of our opportunity. Everybody strapped up, did the right thing, did what we needed to do to get here and you’ve seen the end result here.”
After time had expired and the team accepted the Grey Cup trophy, prior to heading to the press conference, Kackert stopped by the team’s dressing room and took part in one of the small perks of winning a championship.
“I got a chance to get to the locker room after the win and do the champagne bottle shake and you’ve seen that your whole life growing up. I was asking Jeff Johnson yesterday, I was like ‘if we win this game are they going to have champagne in here, with everything tarped up?’ He was like ‘ya’ and I was like ‘let’s win,’” Kackert added with a laugh.
And win they did.