No culture clash for Sikh football player at Laurier

Sukhneet Kahlon 2
Photo: Kha Vo

Dan Polischuk
Waterloo Chronicle

As process-driven as Laurier Golden Hawks offensive lineman Sukhneet (Sukh) Kahlon is, there’s no way he would reverse the fast-forward on his OUA career of winning the Yates Cup in his rookie campaign.

That said, even as he became the first walk-on player in at least a decade to make the jump to starter for the team’s season-opener, Kahlon’s celebration was quite reserved.

“That’s just the beginning of it,” said Kahlon, who is also Sikh.

Breaking down his expectations as becoming a “starter, all-star and then champion,” his mindset is simply that “you can’t sit back and relax.”

“For me, I had the two or three minutes where I was happy, but then it was back to work.”

Growing up in Brampton but having moved to Oakville in tenth grade, Kahlon realized he didn’t have the height for basketball or the speed for soccer — more traditional sports in his culture.

“I came to my senses and I liked hitting people,” he said with a chuckle, adding, “I gave (football) a shot and ever since then I just had a passion for it.

“I was good at something.”

Designated to the offensive line by his coach at the time, Kahlon took to the game quickly — even if his parents were slower to warm up to it.

“Typical to our culture, they just wanted me to study, go get my degree and get a job,” said Kahlon.

“I wanted to do something different.”

As his skills developed with the Halton Cowboys, he joined a Laurier squad which touts former CFLer Irv Daymond as its offensive line coach.

With Daymond’s tutelage came further progression in Kahlon’s play, to the point where he was able to call his mom to share the news of his impending start at home against the Toronto Varsity Blues last week.

“From the time I came in, the technique takes some time but you just need to buy in to what Coach Irv is teaching. It pays off,” said Kahlon, whose parents, friends and high school coach were in attendance as the Golden Hawks cruised to a 39-0 win.

With the first step in his career progression complete, his parents’ enjoyment of the sport has grown to the point where “they’re excited to watch me play because they know how much I care about football.”

The passion for the sport extends beyond the sidelines at Knight-Newbrough Field though, as Kahlon is also hoping to break a few stereotypes.

“Hopefully I’ll set a precedent for other kids in my (Indian) community that you just don’t have to study and get your degree,” he said.

“Do that too, but you can play sports and succeed.”

The Golden Hawks return to action this weekend against the Carleton Ravens.

Game time is 7 p.m. at University Stadium. For more information visit http://www.laurierathletics.com.

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