With the start of a new school year comes a new football season, and for all teams but one, that means trying to improve upon the last season’s results.
For the University of Calgary Dinos, last season’s finale left a bitter taste, one which was all too familiar to fifth-year receiver Mike Klukas.
Klukas, now in his final season with the Dinos, has seen two Vanier Cup championship games in his career. Both have ended the same way: with a silver medal and a loss at the hands of the Laval Rouge et Or. One was in his rookie season, the other in his fourth-year.
Coming into this season as a veteran Klukas has taken those experiences and used them to shape his role as a leader on the team. “[I]n my last year I can draw on my previous experiences to grow and become the best player and teammate I can be,” said Klukas.
In that regard, it would be safe to say that it has been so far so good. Having opened the season on a four-game win streak, the Dinos lead the country in yards per game. As for Klukas, he leads Canada West in yards per game (109) and touchdowns (5).
To ask him though, you wouldn’t know he is the conference’s best receiver. You would know he is the team player that every coach hopes for, crediting the entire system as to what makes the Dinos’ offence exceptional.
Of this system, Klukas was quick to describe what makes the sport thrilling. “Anytime our team makes a big play offensively or defensively I get excited. One of my favorite things about playing this sport is it is the ultimate team game so I love when our team makes plays,” Mike said.
Klukas described what Calgary’s Offensive Coordinator Ryan Sheahan calls “The Matrix”. When the offensive unit enters this Matrix, the points add up for the Dinos and defences struggle to find a stop. But that doesn’t mean Calgary is content with where they are at.
“[W]e can be a very scary team to go up against. Our entire offensive unit is excited about the start we have but not satisfied, we want to improve every single week,” adds Klukas.
Looking to the past can provide a great opportunity for teams to improve in the future, and for Calgary, it would be easy to set their sights on seeking redemption against Laval. However, with such strong teams in Canada West, each week presents its own challenge.
“If you overlook anyone in Canada West you could be in for a rude awakening,” explained Klukas. “We want to be the best team on the field every single week no matter who we go up against and we give all our opponents the same respect during preparation.”
In this preparation is where Klukas is presented with the role of leadership. As a senior, he has experienced the course of a football season four times prior to this year, and knows what it takes to make it to the end. By being placed in this leadership role, he steps up and leads, not only by example on the field but also by conscious effort off it.
“I just want to implement the hard-working culture of the U of C into my younger teammates as my veterans did for me.”
It is through this continuous passing of the torch that the University of Calgary Dinos have created a winning culture, and one which continues to excel. Expect the rest of this season to be more of the same, and don’t be surprised when you see Klukas in the end zone.