KITCHENER — Chris Ackie is in no rush to make a decision.
The Cambridge native, a veteran of four Canadian Football League seasons, said he was contacted by all nine teams Tuesday (the opening day of free agency) and will weigh his options carefully before making his next move. The six-foot-two, 220-pound linebacker from Wilfrid Laurier University finished the 2018 season with the Ottawa Redblacks after spending three-plus years with the Montreal Alouettes.
“I know I’m going to be playing on a team, I just have to weigh my options and figure out what offer is best for me to go in and make an impact, not only on the football field, but in the community as well,” said the 27-year-old Ackie.
“It could be days, it could be weeks, I’m in no rush. I’m staying busy and will be ready to go in May (when training camps open).”
Ackie’s immediate concern is promoting the Motivated Society football camp he will host March 15 at the CORE Lifestyle & Recreational Complex on New Dundee Road. Thirteen coaches, most of them current CFL players, will be in attendance at the camp for youngsters between the ages of 10 and 18 years of age. All proceeds from the camp, which Ackie hopes will attract 120 players, will be donated to 519 Pursuit, a London, Ont.-based organization that assists the homeless.
Ackie was one of the founding members of the Motivated Society, a group that is dedicated to training and inspiring youth players to pursue their football dreams. This will be his third year hosting the camp that will feature 13 coaches from various football backgrounds. The group includes former Laurier players Kelvin Muamba (CFL free agent) and Esa Mrabure (Calgary), who have been with Motivated Society since the beginning, as well as first-time coach Ronnie Pfeffer (Toronto), a kicker from Kitchener (Cameron Heights) and former Laurier standout.
“When I was like them, an aspiring athlete playing Preds (Waterloo Regional football), I didn’t really have anything like this,” said the 26-year-old Pfeffer. “So it’s nice to show them that kids from this community can make it.”
Pfeffer has struggled with injuries since signing with Toronto as an undrafted free agent in 2015 but has won two Grey Cup rings with Ottawa and Toronto. Last season, he played seven games for the Argonauts.
Kay Okafor (Hamilton), Greg Morris (Ottawa), Juwan Brescacin (Calgary), Kwaku Boateng (Edmonton), Jesse Joseph (Montreal), Daniel Tshiamala (free agent), and Brandon Bridge (free agent) will also be featured coaches, along with former Laurier quarterback Eric Morelli and current Laurier linebacker Mario Pineda.
“I tell them what I’m doing and they’ve always been down to come out and help,” said Ackie of the player-coaches who have helped his cause.
The camp costs $65 to attend, with ages 10-13 up first (4-6 p.m.), followed by the 14-18 age group (6-8 p.m.). Additional information is available at motivatedsociety.wixsite.com/footballcamp. Ackie has sponsors on board for the event but is still looking for more. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ackie enjoyed a breakthrough season with the Alouettes last season, earning a starting role at a new position, weakside linebacker, before being dealt to the Redblacks at the CFL trade deadline for a second-round pick in this year’s draft. He played a lesser role in Ottawa but did make his first Grey Cup appearance in a 27-16 loss to Calgary.
Ackie began his football journey with the Cambridge Lions and was an outstanding two-way player with the Preston Panthers in high school.