Finnish prospect Kimi remains a work in progress for Argonauts
Some day in the distant future, if the CFL has its way as the league continues to spread its brand, the name Kimi Linnainmaa will resonate with fans of the Argos.
For now, it’s unlikely Linnainmaa, who was born in Finland, will be an every-down presence for the Argos on the field, but one never knows given the fluid nature that is pro football and the CFL’s limited rosters.
Global players are part of the CFL’s designation alongside nationals and internationals, a mix where Linnainmaa finds himself in as next Saturday’s season opener for the Argos continues.
“He’s had tremendous growth throughout camp to where he is now,’’ said head coach Corey Chamblin of Linnainmaa, who lines up at the slot position. “He stayed after practice (Wednesday) to learn extra work.
“He’s learning the system and it’s starting to translate onto the field in terms of catching the ball and knowing where to be.
“He’s still a work in progress. He’s made strides to earn his way onto the roster. He’s showing up special teams-wise. One punt return (from last week’s pre-season finale in Hamilton) caught my eye. We’ll see how he grows.”
Linnainmaa was born in Espoo, Finland, located just outside the nation’s capital, Helsinki.
As a kid, Linnainmaa played hockey and soccer and took up football when he turned 12.
For a few years Linnainmaa juggled hockey and football before he started to concentrate on the pigskin.
It was during family trips to Florida when the football bug hit Linnainmaa, the annual vacation spot allowing Linnainmaa to attend the occasional NFL game.
As Linnainmaa recounted, he reached out to a local Finnish team, the Espoo Roosters, after he returned from his family trip to Florida.
In Espoo, Linnainmaa played on both sides of scrimmage.
“I pretty much played quarterback until I reached the top-level teams,’’ he said. “At that level, teams in Finland would bring in import quarterbacks from the United States. I then transitioned to receiver.”
His football path would bring Linnainmaa to Concordia, where he attended camp and played in one regular season game for the Stingers.
He returned to Finland when Linnainmaa couldn’t transfer his credits.
This August, he’ll graduate with a finance degree.
Being in a pro camp with CFL players has opened Linnainmaa’s football world.
Had it not been for the league’s 2.0 initiative, it’s doubtful Linnainmaa would even be in Toronto.
“The playbook is way more complex than I’m used to,’’ said Linnainmaa. “I had some experience with Canadian football (back in Finland they play U.S. football) but that was two years ago and it was so short. I didn’t really have time to get ready because it was surprising to me to even get into camp here.
“The first couple of weeks were tough, but I’ve been learning a lot every day and it’s been fun.”
Linnainmaa has fit in well in the locker room.
His background becomes an instant talking point with teammates.
“Everyone has been great,’’ he said. “They’ve welcomed me. They’re interested in my background in Finland, Europe, my playing experience and all that stuff. It’s been cool.
“It’s exciting. It’s a dream come true. Even as I look back to last fall, I couldn’t even think about it or dream about it before this happened (global initiative).”