Calgary's Colton Hunchak gets first start for Stampeders
EDMONTON – Colton Hunchak grew up dreaming of playing for the Calgary Stampeders in games like Saturday’s Labour Day Replay against the hated Edmonton Eskimos.
A local kid who starred alongside his brother, Brett, at Notre Dame high school and participated in Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson’s passing academies for aspiring quarterbacks, Hunchak basically bled Red & White from the day he was born.
On Saturday, he’ll be starting at receiver for the Stampeders for the very first time.
Hunchak is ready and isn’t getting too caught up in the moment, but he’s also not hiding his excitement.
Games like Saturday’s matchup with the Eskimos are what every football player lives for, but that’s especially true for a local kid like Hunchak.
“I called my brother earlier today and it’s pretty crazy. I just said the words, ‘I’m starting for the Calgary Stampeders,’ “ Hunchak said. “Just saying those words and hearing them, it’s a dream come true for myself and my family, just because we’ve been so involved with the organization and I watched them when I was younger.”
On top of achieving a lifelong goal by starting for the Stampeders – Hunchak has been on the active roster for six games so far this season, but hasn’t started – Saturday’s game will also be the latest high in a year that’s had its ups and downs.
After getting selected by the Stampeders with the very last pick of the 2019 CFL Draft, Hunchak had a strong training camp but was ultimately cut at the end of pre-season so that he could return to York University for his final year of eligibility.
The 21-year-old was disappointed, but flew back to Ontario and began preparing for one last year of college ball.
But less than a month later, Stamps receiver Juwan Brescacin got hurt and Hunchak got a call from the Stamps. He was soon back on his way to Calgary to resume his professional career.
Hunchak spent the entire summer backing up Richard Sindani, who took over in place of Brescacin as the Stampeders’ starting slot receiver.
Sindani got hurt in Monday’s Labour Day Classic, though, so it’s Hunchak’s turn.
The Stampeders might not have envisioned having Hunchak at slot-back in games as big as Saturday’s tilt at the beginning of the season, but they’re confident he can do the job.
“He’s helped a lot,” said Stamps head coach Dave Dickenson. “He’s smart. I know he was eighth-round, last pick, but I thought he would be a valuable guy, just because he can do multiple things. He hasn’t caught a lot of balls, but when he gets his opportunities, he does well. Doing alright on special teams, smart, he’ll be our third-string quarterback this week, too (with Montell Cozart out).”
So far this season, Hunchak has one reception for 57 yards, but that number is likely going to go up in Saturday’s Labour Day Replay against the Edmonton Eskimos.
That’s definitely not a bad opponent to play against in your debut as a starter, especially if you’re a born-and-raised Calgarian playing for your hometown team.
So it’s understandable Hunchak is excited. He has friends from York driving up from Calgary for the game, and his dad is hoping to be at Commonwealth Stadium, as well.
But Stamps quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell believes the word ‘excited’ needs to come with a caveat. Mitchell’s seen Hunchak up-close this summer, and doesn’t believe his young teammate is just happy to be a starter.
“It’s not like a little kid being excited,” Mitchell said. “He’s happy, he’s excited, but he’s a little more driven than anything. I think he felt he had a really good camp and was a little bit hurt when he got cut. I think coming back, he was a little more motivated to say, ‘Alright, how do I become a professional?’ Not that he wasn’t, but it was, “how do I become a professional to stay here?’ ”
“His locker’s right next to me, he’s a guy who asks all the right questions. He’s a former quarterback so he definitely understands coverages, which I love.”
Speaking with Hunchak, it’s pretty clear he’s taking the exact approach Mitchell described.
He’s excited, sure, but he’s definitely not just happy to be in the starting lineup.
He didn’t just dream of starting for the Stampeders when he was growing up, he dreamed of making plays and contributing.
That hasn’t changed.
“I don’t know if (the coaches’) expectations change from when Richie is in there,” Hunchak said. “We’ve had a lot of injuries and the whole mantra with regards to that is, ‘Next man up,’ and I’ve been right behind Richie, following him, watching everything he does on film.
“My expectation for myself is to keep the bar right where it is, if not raise it up.”