CHALLENGER MAKING HIS MARK IN BOSTON
Since leaving Vanier, Kevin has been making a big name for himself as a star receiver with the Boston College Eagles. In his sophomore year, Kevin played all 12 games and recorded 16 catches and 284 yards. This year after 8 games, he leads the Eagles with 32 catches for 343 yards and four touchdowns. A possible shot at the NFL definitely seems in the cards. We invite you to read a story on Kevin printed in the Montreal Gazette.
Former Cheetah Star Kevin Challenger
Photograph by: AP
ACCIDENTAL GRID STAR
Arpon Basu, The Montreal Gazette
LaSalle native Kevin Challenger's dream has always revolved around chasing down balls on a field, and he's living it this season as the leading wide receiver for the 15th ranked Boston College Eagles football team.
But back in 1999, the field of Challenger's dreams was a baseball outfield, as he was the starting centre fielder and leadoff man for the top team in the province, Les Ailes du Quebec.
"I really wasn't interested in playing football at all," the 24-year-old said in a recent telephone interview from Boston.
One of Challenger's teammates on the 1999 version of Les Ailes - a team of the top 17-and-under baseball players in Quebec - was catcher Russell Martin, now a rookie-of-the-year candidate for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In '99, Challenger went to watch one of his friends practice with the LaSalle Warriors bantam football team. When one of the coaches asked Challenger if he could run, he replied that he was a decent runner, and the coach asked him to step on the field and run a pattern.
"I ran a go route and the quarterback threw me the ball," Challenger recalled. "I've been playing football ever since."
Despite his late arrival to the game at age 17, Challenger quickly blossomed into a top receiver, but he still didn't think much of his future in football. In fact, he didn't even tell his parents he was playing for LaSalle until the end of his first season.
"I didn't really think it was that important," he said.
Well, it's important now.
After three seasons at Vanier College, where he was a perennial all-star as a receiver and special-teams player, Challenger was given a scholarship by Boston College head coach Tom O'Brien for the 2003 season.
Challenger redshirted that first year as he adjusted to the much faster brand of football in the U.S., and he saw little action as a freshman two years ago. But on Oct. 15, 2005, in a game against Atlantic Coast Conference rival Wake Forest, Challenger marked his arrival by hauling in a highlight-reel touchdown catch in sloppy conditions to give Boston College a 35-30 victory with just over a minute left.
"That catch gave me a lot of confidence," Challenger said.
He finished his sophomore season with 16 catches for 184 yards, playing in all 12 games. But even though Boston College lost its two starting receivers from last year, Challenger still didn't know where he stood coming into the 2006 season.
"I knew I had a good chance of becoming a starter, but you never really have a job guaranteed," he said. "I knew I had to work at it."
It is that work ethic that Challenger has shown since his arrival in Boston that has impressed O'Brien, but he feels Challenger's biggest asset is his desire to win.
"He's a great competitor," O'Brien said. "He never stops competing."
Coming off a 41-0 victory over the University of Buffalo Saturday - which improved Boston College's record to 7-1 - Challenger leads the Eagles with 32 catches for 343 yards and four touchdowns.
A big 24-19 win at unranked Florida State last month kept Boston College on track to win the conference championship and earn an invitation to one of the five major postseason bowl games, most likely the Orange Bowl in Miami. The Eagles will have to win the rest of their games to assure themselves a BCS bowl game and there are tough matchups at Wake Forest and at Miami left.
Challenger's performance this year has not gone unnoticed by pro scouts. O'Brien says he believes Challenger should be given a shot at the NFL when he is done at Boston College, and he has already fielded phone calls from CFL scouts looking for insight on the receiver.
Challenger is often too busy to reflect on how far he has come since his days as a centre fielder only seven years ago, or even the days he played before a few dozen fans at Vanier. But he does, from time to time, have brief moments of insight when he realizes he's come a long way since that chance encounter at a LaSalle Warriors practice.
"Growing up, you watch Florida State and Miami and teams like that every weekend, so to be a part of it now is really special. You could say I'm living a dream," Challenger said. "Sometimes when I'm in certain stadiums, just before the game, I look up into the crowd and soak in the atmosphere and just think about how fortunate I am to be where I am."
© The Gazette (Montreal) 2006