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The mindset of an all-star
Chip Cox was never one to brag. In fact, throughout the 11 seasons that he’s played in Montreal, he’s rarely been in the limelight. But that’s certainly not because he doesn’t deserve it. Chip earned three CFL All-Star nominations, was once named the Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the league, has recorded close to 800 tackles, won two Grey Cups and has yet to miss a game. The 5 foot 9 linebacker is the very definition of impressive. Over the years, he’s led the league in forced fumbles and has had several highlights, but his individual accomplishments were never his favourite topic.
That is until last week, when the 200-game milestone came along. “That’s the only milestone I’ve ever had my eye on. It was special because an average football career is three-and-a-half years and to play 200 games is a lot. I never thought that I’d play 200 professional football games,” Cox admits. Better still, he played all 200 games wearing the colours of the Alouettes. As his teammate and good friend Kyries Hebert put it, “It takes a special kind of player to be able to stay that long in one place, despite opportunities of free agency and being able to go for a higher dollar. To keep choosing Montreal is a true testament to his character.”
In addition to being incredibly reliable, Chip is also a model of loyalty. “A lot of people might think that he’s arrogant, but he’s a real decent guy. He keeps his circle small and is extremely loyal”, Kyries explains. Recently, the renowned number 11 was the best man at Hebert’s wedding. From 2006 to 2011, he was often – if not always – seen alongside fellow cornerback Mark Estelle. “Me and Cox, we just clicked. He’s like a brother to me. Once we linked up, it was a wrap. If you saw me, you saw him and that was that. We had each other’s back and still do to this day. After so many years playing ball, you don’t keep that many friends so, knowing that, I’m glad I met not just another friend, but a true brother.”
Although he is a man of few words, Chip lights up when he talks about his number one passion in life. We know what you’re thinking and no, it’s not football. At least not anymore. “Football was always my number one passion, until I had a wife and kids. Now it falls to number three,” he says. On the field, off the field, Chip can do it all. Even entering his 12th consecutive season in the CFL, he is still able to say that family is what’s most important to him: “My parents used to come to every game until three or four years ago. My dad still comes to all the home games and now I have a wife and kids. That’s the most important thing now.”
What’s his secret to making it all work? “We make it a priority not to be away from each other for too long. Family is number one and without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. My wife and I have three kids, ages 7, 6 and 2. They’re awesome! Two girls and one boy. My wife is a teacher so they stay in Montreal for the entire summer and, after that, they go back to Ohio for school and daddy goes home whenever he can. During those times, we try to see each other at least twice a month. Even if it’s only for a day and a half, I’ll fly home on a day off or they’ll fly up for the weekend. We spare no expenses to see each other. You have to make the effort. I mean, I have to be in my kids’ lives. I have to be able to see my wife.”
The guy sure has his priorities straight. When you watch Chip play, you’ll quickly understand that, above his intensity and killer speed (yes, at 34 years old, he is STILL the fastest player on the team), what sets Chip apart is how hard he consistently works. While he confesses to having played games that he really shouldn’t have been a part of, Cox says his secret to staying in tip-top shape after all this time is his mental toughness (and good genes). To be competitive for that many years, especially in a position like linebacker where you give and receive more than your fair share of hits, is almost unbelievable. Both Hebert and Estelle were quick to confirm that their pal’s work ethics were what makes him different from other players. “He trains just as hard during the off-season as during the season in order to keep his body in great shape. He refuses to let any young cats enter the game and take food off his family’s plate. Chip is determined to leave the game with his name engraved in CFL history,” says Estelle.
Striving to be the best seems to be a constant in Cox’s life. The best son, the best husband, the best father, the best player. No wonder he feels good about the new Alouettes era. “I like Patrick’s vision. I like Kavis’ vision. Now it’s just up to everybody else to agree with it and fall in line. When it’s strong at the top, everything just has to follow. Our coordinators and our head coach also share that vision. So as long as we’re all on the same page and we’re all aligned, it’ll work.” And how does Chip himself describe that vision? “It’s just to win.”
As he has no intention of slowing down, we sure hope to be able to keep Chip in Montreal for a few more years. “This city is my second home. It’s the place that raised me and that turned me into a man. I don’t want to go anywhere else, I love it here.” And what words of wisdom does a man who has grown so much in the past decade have to share with budding players? “Do your job. Never complain about playing football. If you get to play football, you can’t complain about it. That’s what you’re here to do. If you get to play football, you should be happy no matter where you’re playing or what you’re doing. There are a lot of people who would dream to be in your position.”
Nothing short of what we expected coming from the epitome of humbleness and consistency. Thank you Chip for all the good times and here’s to many more!