55 Yard Line

Chad Kackert’s “unbelievable journey” concludes with stranger-than-fiction MOP nod

Chad Kackert had plenty to celebrate Sunday: a Grey Cup win and a MOP nod.

TORONTO—Argonauts' running back Chad Kackert wasn't even getting the most hype of anyone at his position during Grey Cup week, as the media largely focused on star Calgary RB Jon Cornish, the league's most outstanding Canadian and its West Division nominee for most outstanding player. The Toronto defence shut down Cornish, though, so it was Kackert who made offensive headlines in the Argonauts' 35-22 win Sunday. For the second-straight week, he delivered a dominant performance, picking up 133 rushing yards on 20 carries (6.7 yards per carry), juking around some defenders and just bowling over others, adding 62 receiving yards on a team-high eight catches and picking up the Grey Cup's most outstanding player award along the way. About the only arena he didn't dominate Sunday was the post-game press conference, where he was largely at a loss for words to clarify how a guy few knew much about heading into this year had become one of the CFL's brightest stars, and led a 9-9 team to an incredible home victory in the 100th Grey Cup.

"I can't explain this right now," Kackert said. "It's been one unbelievable journey and we made it."

It's easy to see why Kackert has been so consistently overlooked. Listed at just 5'9'' and 198 pounds (which may well be generous), he's far from an imposing physical presence. He also doesn't have a football resume that jumps out at first glance; the Simi Valley, California native went all the way to the East Coast to play Division I-FCS (the former Division I-AA) football with the University of New Hampshire Wildcats, and though he impressed there, he was passed over in the 2010 NFL draft. After a cup of coffee with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent, he came to Toronto in February 2011, but was largely seen as a backup to existing star Cory Boyd.

When the Argos made the unusual August move to release Boyd, though, at that time the league's leading rusher, it paved the way for Kackert's emergence. He's been the team's featured back ever since, and although his 638 yards and five regular-season touchdowns don't stand out at first glance, you have to remember that he only started for half the season and that Toronto's a pass-first team. What stands out about Kackert is his consistent effectiveness; he averaged 6.4 yards per carry this year, better than any running back with over 30 carries.

In the playoffs, Kackert took his play to even greater heights; he rushed 15 times for 88 yards and a touchdown (5.9 yards per carry) and added 51 yards and another touchdown on four catches in Toronto's first-round win over Edmonton, and then exploded for 139 rushing yards and a touchdown (with a fumble) on just 13 carries (a ridiculous 10.7 yards per carry) in the Argos' East final triumph in Montreal. That paved the way for his remarkable dominance Sunday. Kackert said at the post-game press conference that it may have been a storybook conclusion to his saga so far, but it's stranger than fiction.

"You can't think this up," he said. "You can't write it,either."

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