Peter Dyakowski’s pet cat is Tweeting less these days. That’s probably a good thing.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats offensive linemen has always had the physical tools to be a dominant football player — big, strong and suitably tough — and his intelligence was never in doubt: this is a former winner of the Canada’s Smartest Person competition, after all.
But Dyakowski’s role as locker-room prankster, quirky sense of humour and multiple off-field interests raised the occasional question about his focus on the game. While@gordon_cat is pretty harmless fun, not everybody gets the joke (or thinks the time it takes to come up with said joke couldn’t be better spent on something football-related.)
Then, a devastating injury and the sense of football mortality that comes with it.
Dyakowski suffered a torn patella during he 2013 Grey Cup — his knee cap became detached from his knee — then suffered a blood clot in his leg and a pulmonary embolism in his right lung during rehab. It almost killed him. He made it back in time to suit up for last year’s playoff run but wasn’t a starter, a role player for the first time in his eight-year career.
Those terrible 12 months between championship losses had given the longest-tenured Ticat perspective.
“The experience I went through has made me value what I have even more. It’s made me realize how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to play,” he said. “If I’m going to take the risks to play — and there are risks every time you step on the field — I’ve got to make it count.
“I’ve always worked hard in the off-season, but I really focused on every little thing.”
He showed up to the team’s off-season workouts in April in phenomenal shape, surprising the coaching staff with his increased mobility and fitness level. After a solid three days surrounded by rookies — most vets were excused from OTAs — he’s continued his renaissance with a strong training camp, rolling with the first-team offence since the opening snap.
But if his position on the depth chart is restored, his role is different now.
“We have some younger guys who have picked up the slack in the pranks department because it’s my job to be a little bit more mature,” he said. “I’ve got to be a bit more of a steady vet.”
At 31, Dyakowski is now happily married and firmly entrenched in the Hamilton community. In addition to real estate holdings, he co-owns the Oxford Learning tutoring franchise on Upper Paradise Road with teammate Andy Fantuz. Dyakowski calls it a “family business” run by his wife, Rachel.
In many ways, the injury would have been the perfect time to begin making that inevitable transition to his post-CFL life. Instead, it had the opposite effect. And it answered, once and for all, any questions about how much he wanted to play.
“I love this team, this city, and I want to win a Grey Cup here. I’ve got plenty of opportunities outside of football and I could be doing any number of other things,” he said. “But this is exactly what I want to do. There’s no place I’d rather be.”
As for Gordon the Cat and his largely dormant Twitter account, Dyakowski says he’s been otherwise occupied, getting ready for summer.
“These days, he’s got more important things to do.”
Notes: Ticat running back Mossis Madu will miss the 2015 season due to a shoulder injury suffered early in training camp.