CFL Pass

Swiss army knife Ackie has a chance to make an impact with Argos

A jack of all sporting trades when growing up, Chris Ackie brings that versatility to the field whether he’s lining up at linebacker, asked to drop into the back end of a defence or make plays on special teams.

Once all the pieces gather when camp opens in May or whether the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forces the CFL to push back its start for training camp, there should be no concerns when it comes to the Argos’ Canadian content, the lifeblood of every successful team.

Ackie was one of many quality signings engineered by vice-president player personnel John Murphy when the league’s free-agent window opened last month.

Faced with a cap crunch, the Montreal Alouettes weren’t able to keep Ackie, allowing the Argos to reach out.

Born in Toronto’s Eglinton/Dufferin area, Ackie moved to Cambridge when he was nine.

Football was the first organized sport Ackie would play, but he also dabbled in basketball, track and field, rugby and even badminton.

During his days in Cambridge, Ackie played on the defensive side of football in the summer, moving to the other side of the line of scrimmage in the fall, which allowed him to expand his overall football education.

“I played running back for years,’’ Ackie recalled of his athletic background. “In high school, some of your best players are asked to play both ways. I never practised with the defence. I just went out with the defence and go out and make plays.

“When I got to Laurier (where some of his teammates included the legendary Anton Bennett and Ronnie Pfeffer) they asked me if I wanted to play receiver or play safety. I asked where did they need me more. They said safety and that’s how I ended up playing defence.”

The positional change has suited Ackie well.

During the 2015 CFL draft, the Als selected Ackie with the fourth-overall pick right after the Argos used the third selection to grab centre Sean McEwen.

Ackie, 28, is entering the peak of his career, mentally and physically.

“I feel fine,’’ he said. “I feel good. I feel athletic. I fee fast, strong. Now, it’s just about maintenance and making sure I’m healthy, working on minor things to the body to ensure I stay healthy and making sure I don’t have nagging injuries during the season.

“I feel the older you get you realize you don’t have to be lifting heavy weights all the time.”

Body maintenance, engaging in drills designed to encourage explosiveness, Ackie’s off-season routine continues.

“How it works for me and my trainer is we go four days a week in the gym and one day a week on the field,’’ Ackie added. “With April approaching, I’ll go three days in the gym and two days on the field. When April hits, I’ll ramp it up on the field. We’re on track.”

A week ago, Ackie was in Louisiana with Fabian Foote and Woody Baron, two defensive linemen, taking part in field workouts.

“I was working on stuff I don’t do often,’’ continued Ackie, whose focus down south with Foote and Baron was on hand skills and pass rush moves. “I got some good workouts with them.”

Foote is a Mac product who signed a free-agent deal this off-season with the Argos, while the Als were able to re-sign Baron.

With his gym now closed, Ackie will work from home.

“I like doing hot yoga in the off-season,’’ he added. “But my yoga studio just closed the other day. There is an online workout available, but it’s not the same.”


Having first played for coach Mark Nelson in Ottawa, Chris Ackie will get a chance to reunite with the veteran CFL mind this coming season when the Argos take to the field.

Nelson returns to the Argos for the first time since he served as the team’s defensive line coach in 1996.

His journey would take Nelson to the U.S. before he came back to three-down football in 2009.

Ackie met Nelson when the two were in Ottawa.

“Every day I had the pleasure of playing for coach Nellie,’’ Ackie said. “He’s a real players coach, which is unique in the CFL. That’s the kind of coach you need in the CFL.

“This isn’t college. You don’t need someone to yell at you. You need to be able to relate to a coach, especially coaches who have played. I find they are easier to relate simply because they’ve been through it.

“They know what they are talking about. He’s a real smart coach. It was great to work with him in Ottawa, even better to be able to work with him in Toronto.”

Earlier in the week, Ackie said he and Nelson spoke on the phone to discuss some of the plans Nelson has in store as the Argos’ new special teams co-ordinator.

Nelson had a seven-year run as a player in the CFL and won a Grey Cup ring as an Argos assistant in 1996.


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