Wildcats Competing for the Ultimate Prize
Jeff Hecht and Neil King are each preparing for a chance to put their names in the history books in the most Canadian of Canadian events. On Sunday when Calgary and Hamilton play for the 102nd Grey Cup they will put aside friendship in hopes of being the first Wildcat since Taylor Inglis and his 2005 Edmonton Eskimos to win. Both men have been in this situation before, Jeff as a member of the Calgary Stampeders in 2012, and Neil with the Tiger Cats in 2013. On Sunday one of these former teammates will finally get to hoist this Countries ultimate football prize.
Jeff and Neil both took time to reflect on their experiences and relationship leading up to the weekend:
EW: Jeff you were an established veteran in the Wildcats Secondary in 2006 when Neil joined the team for his first year. What were your initial impressions of Neil?
“At the time Neil came in I had already established a very hostile relationship with his brother Ryan so I wasn’t sure what to expect. He quickly presented himself as an eager learner and a hard worker. These are qualities that have continued through his climb to the professional ranks. I saw a lot of similar football qualities in Neil that I see in myself and it’s extremely easy to play with and help coach a kid like that.”
EW: Neil what was your first impression of Jeff?
“My first impressions of Jeff were that he was a vocal player who understood the game and played hard.”
EW: You both have been to a Grey Cup previously, What do you take from that experience?
JH “The main thing I take from my Grey Cup experience is the feeling of losing. Neil and I shared a similar experience with the Wildcats in 2006 but this one was definitely worse. In the CFL not only do you not know if you will ever get another shot at a championship but you never know how long your career will end up being. You need to capitalize on the opportunities that come your way. That’s what I expect myself and the Stampeders to do this time around.”
NK: “From my experience of being in a grey cup last year I try to just enjoy the moment. Opportunities like this are very hard to come by so you have to stay focused and be in the moment”.
EW: What’s the biggest skill set needed to be a contributor on special teams?
JH “There is a term I like to use when describing what a CFL special teamer needs to be, and that is a “Dog”. You have to be a “Dog” in the sense of listening and learning what you are told and executing those learnings on command. You also need to be a “Dog” on the field. You need to work. You need to grind. You need to fight. You need to get dirty. You need to do whatever is asked of you and whatever it takes to get the job done. That starts day one of training camp your rookie season and can never end until your career is finished. If you lose the “Dog” you can assure that your career as a CFL teamer will cease swiftly and shortly after that.”
NK: “To play specials I think one of the most important skill sets you can have is a high motor and giving great effort.”
EW: If the opportunity presents itself who wins the head to head match up?
JH: “Unfortunately Neil and I haven’t had many opportunities to match up. One game his rookie season in Calgary I believe was it. I’m pretty sure I took him down 2-1 on those match ups. It really is a great match up. We are very similar players. Similar attributes. Both very very smart football players with an Edmonton based blue collar work ethic that is rarely out matched. We both pride ourselves on being the hardest workers both on and off the field and bring a lot of physicality to the table when the whistle sounds. For this game specifically, I can’t imagine a scenario where I don’t come out on top of a heads up match up with Neil. I will just be too much DOG for him to handle on Sunday.”
NK: “Jeff has taught me a lot throughout our years playing together but if the opportunity comes between the two of us I’m going to win this one”