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The Heroes of 2020
Nate Kasowski tried to make the most of his time as a rookie with the University of Alberta Golden Bears throughout a 2020 U-Sports football season cancelled by COVID-19.
Harry Ainlay Titans kicker Nate Kasowski scores a field goal against the Salisbury Sabres in the provincial high school North Division semifinal game on Nov. 9, 2018, in Edmonton. Photo supplied
Nate Kasowski pictured himself in a University of Alberta Golden Bears uniform from a young age.
In fact, it was a long time coming when the Harry Ainlay high school grad finally signed his letter of intent with the Canada West program he grew up around.
Truth be told, it didn’t take much to imagine himself wearing the Evergreen and Gold.
“My dad played pro football, so I was always kind of growing up around the football field,” said Kasowski, who kicked the Titans to their latest provincial Tier 1 championship in 2019. “My grandparents have been (Edmonton Football Team) season ticket holders for 35 years now, so I’ve always grown up around the sport and I just naturally slipped into it.”
He is the son of Stephen Kasowski, who was drafted out of the U of A as a kicker, punter and wide receiver in the seventh round (56th overall) by Edmonton in the 1988 CFL draft.
“He played for a year, was on the practice squad and then went and played in the World League of (American) Football for the Montreal Machine,” said Nate. “He’s the all-time record holder at the U of A, he’s got, like, seven or eight records holding there.”
And now, things have come full circle, generationally, with the younger Kasowski currently playing for his dad, who is in his seventh year coaching Golden Bears special teams under head coach and fellow former Edmonton CFLer Chris Morris.
“I’ve been with them since Day 1 too, I showed up with my dad for the first practice, I’ve travelled with the team, I’ve helped out,” Nate said, pointing out it wasn’t exactly a foregone conclusion he’d play for the team, given his status as a four-star recruit in the U.S. “Montana State offered me, and a couple other (U.S.) schools, but I want to be a doctor in psychology, that’s my main goal. And a lot of places in the U.S. didn’t really offer it.
“I’m not going to lie, I don’t have plans to play in the NFL. I’m going to focus on school and get my career rolling. That’s why I chose to stay in Canada, and there is no other place than at the U of A with my dad.”
Not that he didn’t have his choice up here, either, with nine offers coming from Canadian universities. But Morris officially welcomed him into the entire Bears family in the summer of 2019.
“Nathan is regarded as one of the top kicking recruits in the 2020 class and already hits 50-yard punts on a regular basis. Nathan has grown up around Golden Bears football. He has been around our program for the last six years and has been in our locker-room at many a game and half time helping out,” the Bears coach posted to social media at the time. “We are ecstatic that he has made the choice to stay home and pursue his academic and football goals at the University of Alberta. This is yet another signing of a player that is arguably the best in his position in the nation. Another solid building block for our program moving forward.”
But the 2020 Season that Wasn’t across all U-Sports leagues cancelled by COVID-19 was hardly the rookie experience Nate expected for himself now that he finally arrived on the roster.
“No, definitely not. But it turned out OK,” he said. “I had plans to kind of just redshirt this year anyway and just work out. So, it worked out perfect.”
Not only did he not use a year of eligibility by redshirting, where you do everything but play in games, but Nate could also benefit from the maximum age extension for players affected by the COVID-19 cancellation.
“We had our full practice season already. It was like a normal season, to be honest, there were just no games because we can’t travel across the country. We’re practising three or four times a week, we’re lifting in the gym four times a week, we have meetings, not every day, but three times a week.”
The Golden Bears grind is nothing new for Nate, of course. And speaking of picturing himself suiting up with the Bears from a young age …
“Not many people know this, but I participated in two of their spring camps,” he said. “I was first kicking at U of A spring camp when I was 14 years old. I definitely have the advantage because I’ve seen the speed of the play for multiple years now.”
Turns out the slow part will be waiting around for next year to finally take to the field with them in an actual game.
E-mail: [email protected]
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge
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