Finally, at 47, Hank Ilesic is going to university. And the Mount Allison Mounties in New Brunswick will welcome him with open arms.
The legendary CFL punter, who in 1977 joined the Edmonton Eskimos as a Grade 12 student and continued off and on in the league and in the NFL until 2001 (not including a few weeks on the Ottawa Renegades’ practice roster in 2005), has agreed to serve as a recruiter, talent-evaluator and mental-preparation instructor for the Mounties, starting next month.
It’ll be the first time in CIS history that a coaching staff will be preparing its entire team with an extensive mental program.
“Everyone at this level has talent and our players certainly match up athletically with every team in the country,” explained Mount Allison head coach Steve Lalonde, a former CFLer with Edmonton and Ottawa. “But they’ve had a history of believing they couldn’t win. There was a losing culture. They finally started to believe in themselves somewhat in the past season (when they ended a 34-game, five-year losing streak and finished with a 2-5 record), but what they need now to get to the next level is to visualize success for themselves before they even step on the field, and this is where Hank will help them. He will get them strong mentally for next season. This will be a first for a team in the CIS and it’ll hopefully be a trend-setter for Canadian universities.”
Ilesic told me his kicking background is part of what qualifies him for this role.
“I wasn’t on the field for long periods of time,” he said, “so I had to do a lot of visualizing. I’ve also come across some great visualization and self-discipline programs recently and I’ll share them with the players.”
Lalonde, the Atlantic Football Conference’s coach of the year for 2006, predicted players who join his program “will be part of the greatest turnaround in CIS history.”
And Ilesic said he couldn’t think of anything that would be more gratifying for him.
“I never had a chance to go to college,” he said, “and so I was never really properly developed. The same is true for so many Canadian players, even those who’ve gone to Canadian colleges. There’s never been a good infrastructure for preparing players in Canada. I’m hoping we can change that. And, honestly, if I can assist and help properly develop even one or two players for the pros, I’ll be happy as hell.”
Oh, and by the way, Ilesic will be providing his services to the Mounties at no charge.