It’s easy being Rider green: Peter Dyakowski adjusting just fine

The tribute is tucked into a discreet corner of Tim Hortons Field, a montage of goofy photos from his college days, his nine seasons in Hamilton, his many community appearances. He may be a Saskatchewan Roughrider now, but Peter Dyakowski is still a subtle presence with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

“I think he’s the ultimate locker room guy: he’s never too serious, keeps everybody loose and he’s interesting to have around,” says quarterback Zach Collaros. “He was a good teammate.”

The 33-year-old offensivel lineman was released this winter, his reign as the longest-tenured Ticat coming to a sudden and inglorious end. With younger, more affordable players in development, the Kent Austin regime decided Dyakowski was expendable, the latest in a string of long-time Ticats – Marwan Hage, Jamall Johnson, Bakari Grant, Dave Stala – to be shown the door or allowed to depart without much fanfare.

Dyakowski quickly caught on with the arch rival Toronto Argonauts, signing with them just hours after his release from Hamilton. Then, as training camps were set to open this spring, he was dealt to the Roughriders.

On Saturday, his old team will face his new one when the Ticats travel to Regina to play the Riders in the second-ever regular season game at new Mosaic stadium. Dyakowski will make his third straight start at right guard after years on the left side in Hamilton.

“It’s the first time I’ve played right guard since 2007 but I have a good trick,” he says, raising one hand and then the other. “This is right, this is left.”

He acknowledges it’s been a transition for the whole family, his wife and young daughter joining him in Regina while relatives look after his Hamilton home. His role within the team is different as well.

“I’m stepping into a new organization where there are already a number of guys who are established but everyone had welcomed me and they appreciate a guy with experience,” he said. “They accumulated wisdom transfers over, sometimes. They’ve enjoyed the random tidbits.”

Ah yes, the tidbits. Dyakowski was known in Hamilton as much for a big brain and esoteric sense of humour as he was his football acumen. He was crowned Canada’s Smartest Person after winning a CBC television show in 2012 and appeared on the game show Jeopardy! two years later.

Collaros tells a quintessential Dyakowski story.

“We had a series of plays and the kill word was ‘Lincoln’ so I’d be shouting ‘Lincoln, Lincoln’ to get guys organized,” Collaros said. “One time, Pete turns around and says ‘try the Archduke Franz Ferdinand for the call.’ I think three people got the joke but I couldn’t stop laughing.”

Dyakowski has replaced one assassinated politician, former U.S. president Abraham Lincoln, for another – Ferdinand’s killing sparked a chain of events that started World War I – a joke combining both historical knowledge and a certain off-beat sense of humour.

Neither team is taking a particularly light-hearted approach to this game, however. The Ticats are coming off a bye week after getting shellacked by the Argonauts in their season opener while the Riders are 0-2 and have had another tumultuous week. The latest kerfuffle: defensive end Jonathon Newsome slamming the team’s coaching staff via Twitter on Friday after his mid-week release.

Saskatchewan head coach Chris Jones brusquely dismissed Newsome’s comments.

“We got a ball game to play,” he said. “He’s not even on our football team anymore.”

Dyakowski said he’s looking forward to playing against his old teammates and was careful to steer clear of controversy when asked about his release from Hamilton. He is, after all, far too smart for that.

“I’m very happy where I am. It’s going great so far, I couldn’t ask for a better place to be,” he said. “Why complain? You can’t go through life second-guessing things.”

The nature of his departure – and his immediate signing with the Argos – prevented Dyakowski from being celebrated for his contributions to the team, both on the field and off. Hopefully, that will change in time.

At the bottom of the Dyakowski tribute, there’s a quotation from the man, a familiar refrain from his time with the club: “It’s always a great day to be a Ticat.” He won’t be one on Sunday; but he will be one forever.

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