January 30, 2020

Dickenson Passing Academy Helped Shape Colton Hunchak

CALGARY, AB - SEPTEMBER 7, 2019: The Calgary Stampeders won 33-17 against the Edmonton Eskimos at The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on Saturday. (Photo by David Moll/Calgary Stampeders)

It’s a learning experience unlike any other.

The Dave Dickenson Passing Academy has been educating local football talent for the past 11 years.

Some of the athletes have gone on to graduate the program and use their tools to find success at the collegiate level and even in the CFL.

A prime example of this is the Stampeders’ own Colton Hunchak.

“I started in one of the first years the camp was run,” explained Hunchak. “One thing that really stood out from the other camps, because I was involved in football stuff all year round, was the chalk talk and getting into the film room with Coach Dave. Just being around the professional guys, it helps your energy and keeps you focused.

“Initially I was a quarterback, but in my second year, they were short on receivers for the older group and I had to stick around to watch my older brother anyways, so Dickenson asked me to run some receiver routes. For a couple years I was running both and it really helped my game as a whole. Understanding both sides of it and seeing what they talk about from a quarterback perspective, but now seeing it from a receiver perspective helped me learn how to see the game better and that’s stuck around with me to this day.

“That’s something I wanted to give back to the kids in Calgary. I told Dickey at the combine that if he drafted me, I was going to come work at the camp for him. That’s something I wanted to do, I wanted to give back. Knowing the impact that I’m going to have with these athletes, even if I can just help with one or two things, I think that’s going to be really beneficial for them.”

The program is two-fold: education and implementation.

“It’s going to be the base and foundation of you being a good football player. If you want to continue that, you’ve got to keep working on the fundamentals.”

Dave Dickenson and his staff begin with classroom sessions to provide the athletes with the base knowledge required, and they follow that up with on-field sessions to practice what they preach.

“There’s a really good structure with it,” said Hunchak. “They start off with just some basic stuff with alignments, where you want to be on the field in certain formations, and then they introduce coverages. Then the next day you’ll move on to reading contour, so pre-snap being able to read coverages. From there, now you work on how the coverages move with each other, what are their responsibilities and how can you find the zones. It’s structured well in that you start at an entry level understanding of the position and leave with a solid grasp of the concepts, reading coverages and your job as a receiver.

And though some of the information may be ‘basic’, the athletes will learn things well beyond their level.

“There are things I learned in this camp that I still use to this day,” stated Hunchak. “It’s going to be the base and foundation of you being a good football player. If you want to continue that, you’ve got to keep working on the fundamentals.

“Something I keep reiterating to the kids is that we are coaching them above the level that they are at because we’re not preparing them for the job they have, but for the job they want. There’s stuff that I’m teaching kids at 13-15 years old that I didn’t learn until I was in college. The faster you can get those fundamentals in their brain, the longer they are going to be able to rep it and the better they are going to be later on.”

And, of course, the biggest feature of the camp is the ability to receive instruction, criticism, and help from the head coach of the Stampeders, Dave Dickenson.

Being able to pick his brain and extract some of his vast knowledge is something that not all young football players get to do, so it is an invaluable component of the Passing Academy.

“That’s the thing that makes it so special,” admitted Hunchak. “The fact that Dickey takes his time out to invest into these young kids and help grow the Canadian game, I think it’s awesome and very important. I don’t know any other coaches around the league doing that. There are good camps in Calgary and I can vouch for them, but this is above and beyond.”