Former Mac football offensive lineman Jakub Szott takes us through his journey as a rookie to working for a spot on the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks
C/O Owen Mertens
It all began in Summer 2016 when Jakub Szott went from high school to a training camp with the McMaster University men’s football team. Moving from a small team to a team full of veterans, Szott was able to grow both as a player and a person.
“Honestly, I just tried to approach every single day with the same work ethic when I first came into the school . . . I have to keep fighting,” said Szott.
Aside from field play, teammates spend most of their time in the locker room. As a first-year player, Szott did recognize the age difference among the players and as years passed, he emulated the same experience for the rookies during his senior year.
However, it’s not always about shining bright in the locker room. During Szott’s third year on the team, their head coach was fired towards the end of the season.
“We were just completely wondering what’s happening with our future. Everyone is working super hard in the off-season,” said Szott.
Fast forward to the following season, Szott’s fourth season on the team, when the team advanced to the prestigious Yates Cup, the trophy awarded to the champions of the Ontario University Athletics conference. After being down 10-0 to start the game, the Marauders fought back to defeat the favoured Western Mustangs by a score of 29-15 and claimed the Cup.
“Beating Western for the first time in my four years at university was truly an awesome experience . . . it goes to show how tightly knit our group was, to overcome everything that happened the year before and for us to grow and to be able to accomplish something like that,” said Szott.
While winning the Yates Cup was a remarkable achievement for the athlete, his journey was nothing short of challenging.
“We suffered a ton of different injuries, we were having the next guy up and up, having to rotate guys in there shows our tight-knit group,” said Szott.
Fortunately, for Szott himself, while he suffered a concussion, he did not miss time as it happened during his bye-week.
Furthermore, as a leader on the team, Szott understood that he needs to instill personal responsibility into his own mistakes but also keep the team morale up after losses.
“Trying to be level-headed and positive and understanding the coaches’ goals and moving past everything that comes,” said Szott.
Aside from winning the Yates cup, Szott’s personal favourite game was their homecoming game against the Waterloo Warriors in his most recent season.
“They didn’t want to dress as many defensive linemen, so I kind of took that as a challenge as an offensive lineman and we rushed for over 200 yards that day,” said Szott.
When McMaster’s defence was able to shut down Waterloo’s offence that day, a unit that featured one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, Szott knew the team had something special on their route towards the Yates Cup.
After the fourth season of his undergraduate career, it was tough to adjust when COVID-19 locked down Ontario last March. That being said, Szott was fortunate enough to gain access to training equipment with gyms being closed.
“I’ve had some great guys that were able to hook me up with some racks to lift some weights . . . At the start I remember working with just bands and it’s not the same,” said Szott.
As Szott graduated this past December, he was still participating in activities with the McMaster football team since training camp in August.
“I did try to attend all the meetings that I got invited to and to stay in the loop because I can still come back . . . I don’t want to close any doors because I did enjoy my time at Mac,” said Szott.
Although he maintained his ties to the Marauders’ program, Szott was ultimately drafted by the Ottawa Redblacks in April 2020’s CFL Draft.
“I have to be physically ready regardless of where I get drafted if I want to make the team,” said Szott.
As draft day approached, circumstances were quite unusual with online interviews, yet Szott enjoyed the process of dressing up and doing it within the comfort of his home.
Despite being drafted and successfully signed by the team, Szott still has lots of work to do to earn a spot on the final roster. While having an extra year to maintain conditioning and be physically ready for the tryouts, Szott’s coaches at McMaster have also been encouraging on his route to the CFL.
As the former Marauder mainstay has to compete against other offensive linemen at the training camp for a spot, Szott knows that he will most likely have to once again take that extra step to beat someone out and earn his spot.