Vernon’s Ben Hladik was pressed right into a beginning function due to an damage to Bo Lokombo, however his performances on the sphere have made him indispensable to the B.C. Lions.
Ben Hladik’s low season has modified in kind, however not perform.
Gone are the Rocky IV-esque days of winter coaching, shovelling off 40 yards of snow on a frozen soccer subject in Vernon so he might work on his 40 occasions. Now it’s a treadmill in Langley or weight room at his alma mater, UBC.
However there’s no dip in depth as a result of the B.C. Lions linebacker is aware of he can’t afford to. This yr, he’s anticipated to take the soar from damage fill-in to full-time starter with the Leos.
“I’m very lucky I’m on this spot; it’s a fantastic alternative for me,” the Vernon native stated from coaching camp in Kamloops on Tuesday.
“Now I’ve to remain in that spot. Everybody’s working arduous, everybody’s attempting to get a beginning job, so I can’t simply say something’s assured. I gotta maintain working like I all the time do and maintain getting higher once I’m on the market.”
Camp has continued the place 2022 left off for Hladik. When Bo Lokombo went down with a grotesque elbow damage final July, Hladik stepped in for the veteran linebacker, and put an ironclad grip on his beginning function even when Lokombo returned.
The composition of the linebacker core modified considerably with the commerce of main tackler Jordan Williams to the Toronto Argonauts within the low season, however on Day 2 at Hillside Stadium, when Hladik recorded the primary interception of Lions camp, the new-look defence confirmed it nonetheless has its claws.
“We obtained some measurement. We’re all tall,” Hladik stated, giving his impressions after the primary few days in Kamloops.
“We’ve got some taller guys, lots of some thicker guys. We’ve got another guys too, like DQ. (DaQuaylyn Thomas) He’s a bit smaller … however he can transfer. What he lacks in measurement he makes up for — and his pace and athleticism.
“We’ll be filling up lots of throwing lanes on the market,” he added of a defensive unit that ranked second total in interceptions in 2022 (19).
Lokombo, who’s performed 107 CFL video games total since his first with B.C. in 2014, brings expertise to the linebackers, whereas Josh Woods and Hladik are anticipated to make large jumps in manufacturing and duties of their third years.
“It was nice to see guys emerge final yr, guys like Ben Hladik — he got here up large final yr,” he stated. “Jordan Williams is gone now, however now we have lots of guys who’ve proven that they will play. We’ve obtained Josh Woods, we’ve obtained one other vet like (Isaiah) Messam, we signed Jordan Herman-Reed, who’s obtained tons of expertise, after which we obtained some younger guys like Ryder (Varga), we obtained (Parker) Brooks, we introduced in some key guys. So total, now we have a fairly deep linebacker group.”
Hladik was drafted twenty second total within the 2021 CFL Draft, after not enjoying soccer the earlier season. He’s not prepared to color himself in veteran colors, like Lokombo and TJ Lee — two gamers who helped mentor him — however is aware of he has his function to play.
“I can’t say I’m established but. I nonetheless obtained to earn it, however I’m attempting to assist out younger guys once I can. I imply, the younger guys, they’re not a lot youthful than me,” stated the 24-year-old. “I got here once I was fairly younger to the CFL, so I obtained some good expertise. … However I’m attempting to assist out as a lot as I can, as a result of that’s what guys used to do for me. I’m simply attempting to maintain passing it down.”
The Lions are previous the rising pains they endured within the 2019 and 2021 seasons once they missed the playoffs, two younger groups that weren’t capable of finding their method regardless of being quarterbacked by veteran Michael Reilly. Final season, the groundwork laid the last few seasons supplied a steady launching pad that put them into the playoffs once more, and B.C. gained simply its second post-season sport within the final 10 seasons.
“I feel this group is aware of itself somewhat higher. Final yr, we had been figuring ourselves out some,” stated head coach Rick Campbell. “We obtained a core group of veteran guys, the identical teaching workers, so there’s that aspect to it, but it surely’ll all the time have a special persona as a result of there’s gonna be some new guys that take part and provides it a special really feel.
“We all the time speak to that: each staff has a shelf life. There’s all the time a particular to every professional sports activities staff every season, however I feel we simply type of have a greater concept of who we’re and the way we practise and what we do.”
Spring subscription sale: Our in-depth journalism is feasible because of the assist of our subscribers. For a restricted time, you will get full on-line entry to the Vancouver Solar and The Province, together with the Nationwide Put up and 13 different Canadian information websites, for simply $40 for one yr or $1 per week for 52 weeks. Help our journalism by subscribing at the moment: The Vancouver Solar.