Talks with Hawks: Episode 23 – Sukhneet Kahlon

One of the best things about being part of such a large group as a football team is the number of diverse individuals that come together united in a common goal.  Sukhneet Kahlon would be one of the first to admit that you don’t find a lot of guys with his background on the gridiron, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing his dreams.  As a rookie who didn’t get to dress in 2016, he was a part of a Yates Cup Championship team.  Working harder as a sophmore, he got to dress twice, and in his final two years, he became a starter on the offensive line for the Golden Hawks.  Recently, I was lucky to have the chance to talk to him about his playing days at Laurier, his faith, his experiences with racism, and his favourite football team (the Philadelphia Eagles).

Dave Morrissey: Where did you play high school football?

Sukhneet Kahlon: I went to White Oaks Secondary School in Oakville under Coach Polasek. I started playing in grade 10.  I loved everything about the game, especially getting to hit people.  You could do things to guys on a football field that would get you arrested off the football field!  I loved the physical part of the game. I also played summer football with the Halton Cowboys.  That was my first experience with an experienced offensive line coach.  We didn’t win many games there, but we were competitive and a number of guys on that team got to play at the next level.

DM: Why did you choose to come to Laurier?

SK: In my final two years of high school, I saw that WLU went 4-4 and they were starting to improve.  I also saw some key signings that they had, guys that I had played against in summer ball, Eli Fera for example, he was the best running back in the OVFL one summer (Editor’s Note: Fera tore his ACL in the summer before his rookie year at Laurier but he did go on to play for the team the next 3 years.  He has had a lot of success playing football in Europe recently). I had played summer ball with Kwaku Boateng.   I wanted to be a part of that group. I saw the potential Laurier had. Dave Montoya coached at another local high school and he also got me interested in the program. Now that my career is in my past, I can say that I was very happy with my decision. I made many friendships at Laurier and football improved my work ethic and made me a better student. It forced me to improve my time management skills. I am now working on a post graduate degree at Waterloo and nobody would’ve ever believed that I was capable of that, including myself. But trust me, I am a Golden Hawk. I am not playing football for them. I don’t own any Warrior gear, and I never will.

DM: What was it like to have legendary CFL player and OUA coach Irv Daymond as your position coach?

SK: To be honest, initially I didn’t know very much about him. When I met him during my recruiting visit, he seemed like a regular, nice guy but when I got out on the field with Irv, things went to a whole other level.  I loved his intensity. Listening to him call out the names of the O-Line in pregame introductions was always a highlight. He was totally amazing. Nobody loves football more than him. The times we had in the film room were memorable. There was a lot of hard work put in, but also a lot of laughs. He created a disciplined, hard working unit. He had high expecatations and we never wanted to let him down. He created a certain type of playing style that made us unique in the league.

DM: What was the most difficult part about being a rookie?

SK: First off, grasping a complete understanding of the playbook was a big challenge.  Secondly, the speed difference compared to high school was quite an eye opener. Every rookie wants to dress and play, but that is a very difficult task, especially for offensive linemen. You almost never see rookies playing O-Line in the OUA. It required an immense amount of hard work and the payoff doesn’t come quickly. I am the kind of guy that doesn’t quit. I knew that no matter what, I was going to compete as hard as I could and be on this team for four years.

DM: Who was the toughest guy to face in practice and in games?

SK: It would have to be Rashari Henry.  He had such a low center of gravity and he would make me look like a turnstile a bunch of times. He was so strong and very fast.  There was a reason why the BC Lions drafted him!  Kenye Onyeka of Carleton was very good. He had a lot of moves and as you know, everyone in that family can play football! 

DM: Talk to me about the importance of your faith and what would you like people to know about Sikhism that maybe they currently do not understand.

SK: My faith (and my family) is the most important thing to me. It is what always keeps me on the right path. I could talk about this topic for days. In the west, religion nowadays doesn’t seem as important to people as it might have been in the past or it currently still is in other parts of the world. My faith also helped me persevere during university. It is my foundation. I would like people to know and understand how selfless and community-based the Sikh community is. Traditions such as Langar and Pangat show the nature of equality and working together and being humble. Sikhs will always go out of their way to help others.

DM: What experiences with racism have you had to deal with?

SK: I’ve experienced many examples of this going all the way back to elementary school with kids calling me names and saying racist things. Even in university, there were times I’d be walking down the street and someone would drive by and yell something racist. I try not to let that bring me down, but sometimes it hurts. There was even one incident that occurred on the football field during my last game. I wish I would have pursued the issue even more. There should be consequences for saying racist things

DM: What are you up to now?

SK: Well, I am finishing up my Master’s program at Waterloo and I hope to get a job in public policy. Working with organizations that involve anti racism would be enjoyable too.

DM: Last year, you came to my high school one day to help out with coaching.  Do you see that in your future at all?

SK: It was fun.  Yeah, I could see doing thiat. I know from personal experience that many high schools lack coaches with an offensive line background. 

DM: What is your favourite football team?

SK: I love the Philadelphia Eagles and Carson Wentz. And I love the Eagles offensvie line.  Even when it comes to playing Madden, I will look at the teams that have the best offensive lines and I will just pound the rock over and over again. I get really excited watching a guard pulling or a lineman getting a big push or a good blitz pick up. Watching guys pushing piles is exciting.  Even when I played, while defensive players’ goals were to hit our ballcarriers, our goal was to hit defenders right up until the end of the whistle. That pisses off some defenders

DM: Thanks for doing this buddy!

SK: No problem Dave. I’d love to come back and help at your school. I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this interview series. I’ve enjoyed reading previous ones. I appreciated your presence at WLU football. It’s clear how much you love the program.

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