Talks with Hawks: Episode 24 – The King City 4

In 2011, I started to do some recruiting/scouting for Laurier Football. Driving around the GTA watching football games became a part of my life. A good friend and long- time football teammate of mine Brad Matwijec was coaching football up at King City. He told me I should come out and check out his team. He listed about a half dozen key players who he felt I should come look at. So, that year I probably went to see 3 or 4 of their games and there was some undeniable talent on that team. Sam Montazeri was a punishing linebacker, Darian Waite was a stud tailback who was easily won of the top running backs in the province, Taylor Caverley was a hard-hitting ballhawk at safety and a 2 time York Region Athlete of the Year, and Marcus Arkarakas was a pass catching machine.  Montazeri and Waite started at Laurier in 2012 while Caverley and Arkarakas began their careers at WLU in 2013.  All 4 of them played key roles for the Hawks in helping WLU win a provincial championship in 2016.

Before I start my interview, here are some quotes about the King City 4 from our former recruit coordinator/special teams coordinator/defensive backs coach Dwayne Cameron:

Sam Montazeri was a supreme competitor whose game prep was second to none.  He was a major contributor to our defensive success.

Taylor Caverley may have been the best athlete on the team. He had great success on the field.  I will never forget a key pass breakup he made in the 2016 Yates Cup right in front of the Western bench.

Darian Waite was a major special teams player for us. He was excellent in punt protection as well as the wedge on kickoff return and he was a great cover guy on kickoffs. We definitely missed him when he graduated.

Marcus Arkarakas was a jack of all trades who was hard for other teams to line up against. He was a great team player who was awesome in the locker room and he had a calm, cool manner.  As the holder for the game winning field goal in the Yates Cup, I knew we were in good shape.

Dave Morrissey:  I knew that when you guys were going to come to Laurier, we were going to get some very well coached football players. The King City program, coached by Jeff Masterson and Brad Matwijec, was a force back in the day and I remember some legendary games against another great team, Huron Heights. Tell me a bit about that.

Sam Montazeri:  Coming into grade 9, I saw they already had Nick Shortill (an amazing player who went to McMaster and played in the CFL) and I saw the talent around me such as Darian, Taylor and Marcus.  In my 5th year, our defence didn’t allow a single point in the regular season. Offensively, we scored a ton of points too.  Our coaches instilled a great work ethic in us and got us to ‘commit to the process’. We worked really hard and we saw the results. Those guys put the grit in us.

Darian Waite: King City was a great team to play for.  We were dominant.  Everybody bought in. We’d grind and work out together daily, sometimes two times a day. We won back to back championships in grades 9 and 10 and again in grade 12 and my victory lap year. The coaches were passionate and connected with players on a personal level. I proudly display a King City football helmet on my desk that was signed by all my coaches: Miller, Metro, Nardone, Masterson, and Matwijec.

Taylor Caverley: High school football was really fun for me. I was lucky to play on some great teams and play with a lot of great players that won 4 championships.  We were from a small school that initially got looked over by a lot of people but we had a lot of guys who later played university ball and a bunch of others that could have also done so if they just took academics a little more seriously. The coaches at King City were hard working and passionate and prepared us very well.  Mr. Masterson and Mr. Matwijec were my role models in high school and I probably wouldn’t have even gone to university without their input.

DM: Why did you choose to come to Laurier?

SM: I was originally sold on going to Western, but I decided to join Darian on his recruiting visit to Laurier, and what was interesting was that every coach there seemed to know who I was (and I had got the opposite feeling at Western). That really influenced me, and well as the football tradition at Laurier.  Dave, you played a big part of the process too. You trusted Brad’s recommendations and you were there a lot and then you introduced us to Coach Cameron and Coach Van Moerkerke.

DW: It just felt right. Coach Jeffries made it feel like a family atmosphere. I remember sitting on a couch at home with a Simon Fraser university scholarship offer being given to me but I told my mom that I was going to Laurier.

TC: I was recruited heavily by just about every school in the province and it came down to McMaster and Laurier. I came to Laurier because of the small town feel to the campus and because Sam and Darian and I had often talked about playing at the same university and winning a championship there. 

DM: Tell me about what it was like as a rookie.

SM: I really enjoyed being on a team with grown men/veterans and learning from them. I got to play a lot early on in my rookie year. The transition to the next level is difficult. The speed on the field is so different compared to high school. I always put in a lot of effort and football mattered very much to me. You have to be ready for your moment all the time.

DW: Well, as you remember, my rookie camp was rough.  I bought brand new cleats. I think I got them the day before camp. Then, with the 2 a days and hot turf, I started to develop these huge blisters, and they just got worse and worse and it got to the point that I could barely even walk. I took a lot of good natured abuse from my teammates, and I deserved it. It sucked because it got me off to a slow start. I wanted to be out there competing and earning a position.

TC: Well, there was a big mix up to start my career. I came to rookie camp but there was some misunderstanding because I didn’t actually get accepted into Laurier as it turns out my grades weren’t high enough. It was very disappointing and frustrating.  In retrospect, it gave me an extra year to mature and earn some money working and it eventually all worked out for the best. The mental transition to the game was the toughest part to grasp. I felt like I could always compete physically. At the university level, I had to learn the playbook and play within the system whereas in high school I could just kind of freelance and do my own thing and still be quite successful. Initial two a day practices required one to have the ability to forget the mistakes they made in the morning and move on in the afternoon. 

DM: Who was the toughest player you had to line up against in practice and on the field during games?

SM: For linebackers, running backs are always the group we practiced against during competitive groups and they were a talented squad with such legendary names like Campbell, Gordon, Guiltinan, and Iginuan, but for me the guy who was always going to ‘punch you in the face’ was Lance Freeman!  He had speed, strength, and the will to compete.  As far as opponents, I would say Jayde Rowe at Carleton.  He was a beast.  He was strong and very hard to tackle.  He was legendary in the GTA.  We all knew about him well before university.

DW: It was Brandon Calver. Going up against him in pass pro, he had this push pull move that I knew was always coming but I still couldn’t do anything about it. Hardest hitter in the OUA?  Mark Mackie from McMaster and me had one epic collision and we both stayed down for a long time. 

TC: Without a doubt, it was Danny Vandervoort of McMaster. I usually preferred to cover big, physical receivers like him because I wasn’t the quickest guy myself. Even if I had perfect coverage on him, he had an amazing ability to come down with the ball.  A close 2nd would be Dan Petermann of McMaster. He didn’t look necessarily superfast but he ran great routes, make one move and then he’d be gone.

DM:  Your mention of Rowe leads me to what I feel was the key game in the 2016 regular season, a 17 to 16 victory over Carleton. The weather that day was terrible. It was incredibly windy and rainy.  Carleton had a very strong team with a 5th year QB and Jayde Rowe leading a powerful ground game. Their defence also featured some incredible players who went on to play in the CFL.  Although Eric Guiltinan ran for 200 yards that day for us, the offence struggled to move the ball.  Our defence won that game for us. Scott Hutter had a pick six for a touchdown, Taylor had 2 interceptions, and Sam, you had 5 tackles.  Darian had a key touchdown too. Tell me a bit about that day.

SM: Both teams had a quite a lot of talent. It was a key game for both of us. This was a huge game for both teams. Carleton’s program had been revived a few years before that and now they had a strong veteran team with basically an entire lineup of 4th year starters. That victory was a total team win for us. So many players stepped up that day and made big plays, and every single one of those plays mattered a lot. For me, other than the Yates victory in 2016 and the semifinal loss to Western at the end of my 4th year (when I thought that was going to be my last game ever), the Carleton game ranks as the most memorable.

TC: I would say the Carleton game was my best game in my career. I got the first two interceptions of my career in that game, and given that it was a close game, those plays really mattered in terms of contributing to the victory. One was in the end zone to thwart a potential Carleton score which was key in a one point victory.  The home playoff game vs McMaster in 2016 was big too. I had a lot of tackles and a key interception late in the game.

DM: Darian, what was your best game?

DW: I would say it was one regular season game vs Ottawa. I recovered three of their attempted onside kicks. I also remember recovering an onside kick at the end of the regular game vs Guelph in the school day game in our Yates Cup Championship year. We got off to a big lead and they came storming back. They had all the momentum. I remember you telling me after the Yates Cup that if I didn’t recover that kick, we wouldn’t have got a playoff bye and maybe we wouldn’t have even advanced to the finals. That stuck with me and honestly that helps me look back more positively on my playing days.

DM: So Sam, you started a lot of games during your career, but in your final year, some of the younger linebackers like Brandon Calver and Nakas Onyeka rose to prominence and that meant you weren’t a defensive starter much of the time.  I was always very impressed with how you handled that. Can you speak about that transition a bit?

SM: When it comes to the way my final year played out, I would be crazy to think that I would have it any other way. We were a team. Those guys were my brothers. You play where and when you are needed. You do what you are asked to do, and when you time comes, you don’t miss. It was a good preparation for life. Life doesn’t always go the way you want it or the way you plan.

DM: Darian, in summer ball and in high school during your years at that level, everyone knew the two best running backs in the province were you and Jayde Rowe. You made huge contributions on special teams and you know how much your teammates appreciated you, but thinking back, does it bother you at all that you didn’t end up getting a lot of playing time at running back?

DW: 100% I was disappointed, especially while I was playing. As a running back, you always want to start, rush for 100 yards, and get a touchdown, and obviously that didn’t happen for me. It easier to accept when you are playing behind the leading rusher in school history Dillon Campbell and then my best buddy and OUA All Star Eric Guiltinan, but I did the best that I could. I owe most of my playing time to Coach Cameron. He was very direct, very straight forward and I will always appreciate him for giving me the opportunity to get on the field on multiple special teams so I can actually say that I contributed to the Yates Cup victory.  A lot of blood, sweat, and tears were shed along with experiencing some broken bones and concussions. It’s an easier pill to swallow now than it was in my playing days.

DM: Taylor, how satisfying was the Yates Cup victory in 2016 for you personally?

TC: It meant a lot to me. I had quit playing the season before. I just didn’t have the drive anymore and I wasn’t in the best place mentally. I actually almost dropped out of school. Sam called me up after the semi-final loss at Western in 2015 and said, “We need a safety” because Ben Millar was graduating. He convinced me to come back. I committed to training harder than ever and I was ‘all in’. To see all that hard work come together and pay off was such an awesome feeling. The way we won, coming back from being down 21 points in the fourth quarter made it even more surreal and the fact I got to win it with some of my best friends was for sure the pinnacle of my sports career.

DM: What are you guys all up to now?

SM: I am in Vancouver. I have been out here for 3 years making music. That’s another passion of mine. For my day job, I climb up trees and cut them down.  It’s like a new sport to me.

DW: I am an outside sales rep for Lift Depot. I sell forklifts. If anyone reading this needs one, let me know.

TC: After I graduated, I spent four months travelling Australia, Thailand, and Viet Nam with my girlfriend. Soon after, we moved out west to Vancouver.  I work at the same company as Sam. We clear trails for the railway.  We have transitioned into industrial athletes. We climb 100 foot trees, swing around from tree to tree, and use chainsaws all day. I love it out here and I think I will be staying out here for quite some time.

DM: If Hollywood was going to make a movie about The King City 4, who would play each role?  

SM: Mark Wahlberg would be good for Marcus, Matt Damon for Taylor, LL Cool J for Darian, and for me….I don’t know man…David Schwimmer?

TC: I would pick Adam Sandler for Marcus because their personalities line up well.  I would say Matt Damon or Mark Wahlberg for me because different people have told me I look like them. Michael B. Jordan would play Darian and Al Pacino would play Sam because they both deliver great speeches.

DW: Hmm….maybe The Rock, we are both rugged and handsome, maybe Denzel, he’s great….no, I am going to go with Jamie Foxx.

DM: Finally, if there was going to be a battle royale wrestling match and you four were the last guys in the ring, who would win it?

SM: You can just ask the other guys.  I don’t have to say a thing!

DW: I am going to go with myself. One day during practice, somehow a question going around the whole team was,”If you were in a bar fight, what two guys would you want backing you up”?  Every single guy picked me first for some reason.  It must have had something to do with my off the field extracurriculars. 

TC: The wrestling question is funny because we actually did those back in the day. It was always pretty close and it could be a different guy on any given day, but if I had to pick somebody, I’d put my money on Sam because he just doesn’t quit. Thanks for recruiting us and believing in us. It was a great 5 years.

(Editor’s Note: Sadly, Marcus Arkarakas was unavailable to participate in this interview.  Marcus was an incredible wide receiver and a total team player. In summer ball before university, nobody caught more passes than ‘Ark’.  At WLU, his numbers weren’t incredible, but everyone knew he had great hands and he was a more than willing blocker who put wins ahead of statistics. He was going to come back for a 5th year but in a spring scrimmage at Western, he suffered a serious injury that ended those plans.  Currently, he is a barber at The Gambit Barbershop in York Region).

Sam Montazeri ‘s latest music video:

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