Jason Arakgi knows how some of the CFL’s greatest milestones have been recognized over the years. He also knows what will happen when it is his turn, likely as soon as Friday when the B.C. Lions take on the Calgary Stampeders.
When Anthony Calvillo became the league’s all-time passing yardage leader the game was stopped. Same thing when Geroy Simon vaulted into receiving immortality. A trophy, handshake and a smile for the cameras.
When one of the most unheralded players in three-down football careens down the field to make his next special teams tackle, he’ll get up, smile and be recognized by peers and fans.
Making more special teams tackle than anyone in league history is the type of thing recognized by those who understand the game and appreciate the service of a 31-year-old from Montreal who made a life in football the only way he could.
Making his 185th career special teams tackle over a nine-year career, which will be one more takedown than Wade Miller did with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in two fewer seasons, isn’t going to lead the nightly news. Arakgi wouldn’t want it any other way either.
“People keep asking me if they’ll stop the game and I’m like ‘I don’t know; I’ve never broken a record before.’ It would almost be weird if they did stop the game,” Arakgi said this week. “I’ve gotten used to making tackles under the radar. It would be too much of a spotlight.”
It’s players like Arakgi who represent the essence of the Canadian game, a player who forged a life in football without playing a marquee role, which is why the McMaster grad says it isn’t right to be compared to Calvillo or Simon though he is no less proud of his pending record.
Wally Buono had no idea where to play Arakgi upon drafting him in 2008 with Barron Miles and Tad Crawford already at safety on the Lions roster. He was moved to play linebacker on the depth chart four years later.
The good news was that his father, former CFL mainstay Nick Arakgi, had instilled the belief in his son even before being drafted that he could have a career solely on special teams. B.C.’s pending career record-holder plays on all five of the Lions special teams. Mission accomplished, though not playing defence has its benefits.
“I don’t think I ever came to terms about not being a starter. It always bugged me,” Arakgi said. “Every time I try to make a tackle it’s almost like a chip on my shoulder. Every tackle I make is a ‘see, I told you I could do it kind of thing.’ That’s how I’ve geared my brain to work.”
Buono, who played back in the days when special teams tackles weren’t counted separately, appreciates the fact Arakgi’s ability to do an uninspiring task has had a trickle-down effect on younger players who haven’t yet recognized the path to a long career.
“Jason’s always wanted to be more involved on defence but he hasn’t let that effect his commitment,” said Buono. “Being no special teams is a thankless job. Nobody knows who you are. To achieve goals like that you have to have longevity.”
It’s a pending record of longevity and durability, Arakgi admitted.
“If you take it seriously you can make a life out of it,” he said. “But I kind of joke that I don’t think this record will ever be broken because I don’t think anyone will be silly enough to play special teams as long as I have.”
He’s also not naïve enough to think anything special will happen when he takes his place in special teams immortality Friday either, just the understanding of a job extremely well done.
LIONS TALES: The recent strong play of rookie defensive lineman Andrew Hudson has earned him another game against Calgary. B.C. didn’t take Hudson out of the lineup when they had the chance last week and will remain Friday even though Craig Roh will start at one end spot. Free agent OL Levy Adcock makes his Lions debut and rookie offensive lineman Charles Vaillancourt returns in a reserve role….