Lineman of All Trades
GTHL grad credits vast athletic resume for opportunity with Toronto Argonauts
It has been said that individuals must dedicate 10,000 hours to their craft to achieve a level of expertise. Elite athletes fall into this category and are often praised for their commitment to offseason workout regimens, because that’s what traditionally separates them from the rest of the pack.
Most athletes can perform the simple movements that lay the groundwork for fundamental movement – run, jump, catch, throw, kick – but using all these skills throughout the 10,000-hour window serves to benefit the athlete in countless ways. Practice them across sports and you’re not only becoming stronger and more skilled, but versatile.
For GTHL grad and current Toronto Argonauts offensive lineman Chris Kolankowski, it was a conversation in the weight room with his strength coach that helped him appreciate how 16 years of hockey played such an important role in his transition to the football field.
“I got exposed to different movements and that helped my overall athleticism a lot,” said Kolankowski, whose six-foot-two, 292-pound frame plays a crucial role in his team’s offensive schemes. “In university, I was undersized for an offensive lineman, but I was just more athletic than everyone around me, so that compensated for my undersized disadvantage and helped me keep up until I got the size. It’s vital to how I got to where I am.”
Part of that journey was the 2016 CFL Toronto Regional Combine, where Kolankowski ranked first among offensive linemen in five of six training regimens: bench press reps (22), 40-yard dash (5.195 seconds), broad jump (9 feet, 2 inches), the three-cone drill (7.78 seconds) and shuttle run (4.62 seconds).
“Being a lineman, you want to prove that you’re an athlete with every chance you get – if someone tosses you a ball, you’re trying to snag it with one hand,” joked Kolankowski, who credits hockey for many transferable skills, like the explosive hip movements necessary in football. “Coach [Mark] Trestman really emphasizes running down a play, so when we’re finished blocking, the play isn’t over and the linemen are racing to be first to the loose ball.”
His father, Roman, felt the need to get Kolankowski and his older brother, Michael, into sports at a young age. From soccer to baseball to track-and-field to swimming to rock-climbing, the boys did it all and it showed in their athleticism, teamwork and time management skills. It also helped them discover their true passion.
“I’ve seen a number of kids that were so focused on one individual sport that one day they just burn out,” explained Roman. “They could miss out on experiences and I wouldn’t want my kid wishing he did something different. He had the exposure to multiple things, had a choice to make and he evidently made the right one because now he’s playing professionally.”
Kolankowski was drafted in the sixth round, 49th overall, by the Argonauts in the 2016 CFL Draft and signed a contract two months later. He started one game against the Montreal Alouettes that pre-season before being assigned back to the York University Lions with instructions to put on size and hone his craft with a new mindset in place.
“You just have to take advantage of every opportunity to get better. You can’t take a rep off because that’s one rep you didn’t get,” said Kolankowski. “In university, I told myself if I want to go pro, I have to do everything possible.”
Kolankowski knows he has the chance to earn a spot as a CFL starter, and that the opportunity to compete and earn a living in professional sports is second to none.
Think you have what it take to be a professional offensive lineman?
Bench press: 22 reps
40-yard dash: 5.195 seconds
Broad jump: 9 feet, 2 inches
Three-cone drill: 7.78 seconds
Shuttle run: 4.62 seconds