Football a hit for Finnish Knight
Okotoks: Rotary exchange student enjoying life on the gridiron
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 09, 2013 11:58 am
A Holy Trinity Academy exchange student will have an interesting story to tell his friends back in Finland about playing his first game of football.
Jesper Honkenen can tell his pals what it is like to be flattened by a truck.
“It was my first game and I had no idea what was happening,” said Honkenen, a defensive rush end for the Knights. “It felt way too easy to get around my guy who is usually trying to stop me. And then there was a truck coming at me and it hit me.
“It was a wake up for me.”
Honkenen’s wake-up call came against the Rundle College Cobras during a Holy Trinity Academy (HTA) home game in September.
Until putting the silver-and-black Knights helmet over flowing locks, his connection to football was watching the Vikings — the Minnesota kind — and other NFL teams’ highlights on the Internet.
“I saw some of the hardest hits on videos but that was about it,” Honkenen said. “The hardest thing to learn is to understand how the game works and what happens too — understanding the whole concept… There are so many things going on. I am trying to think what I should do, what my friends do, what happens next and what can I do better.”
He said he is loving it — letting all his friends back home know via internet how much he is enjoying North American football.
Honkenen is also not afraid to ask his new friends for help on the HTA practice field.
“Sometimes when coach tells us to do something, I will whisper to my teammates: ‘What do I do? What do I do — tell me?’” he said. “I can ask anybody — everybody is willing to help me.”
The five-foot-10, 165-pound Honkenen has had a tackle every game and one sack.
“It’s fun,” Honkenen said of getting his sack against the Cobras. “It’s means I am doing my job.”
Knights coach Matthew Hassett, a former defensive end with the University of Alberta Golden Bears, said the Finnish footballer is a quick study.
“Football can be a really tough sport to learn,” Hassett said. “Usually with these new players it’s a very steep learning curve and then they take off at the end.
“Jesper was a good enough athlete and with his aggression he would make a great rush end. His speed and aggression makes up for his lack of size.”
However, he said Honkenen is still not used to receivers and slotbacks coming back to peel him — the Rundle Cobra truck for example.
“He just got crushed,” Hassett said. “Jesper was so focused on making the tackle he never saw the truck, that was the slotback, coming… In football you either learn quickly or you won’t be there.”
Honkenen has proved to be a quick study and he earned the start against Rundle.
“He was a little overmatched to begin with but now he is more used to the game and he is right in the mix as far as starting goes,” Hassett said. “You never know what kind of player you have unless you give them the opportunity.”
The Holy Trinity Academy Knights have the opportunity to get back on the gridiron when they take on the Highwood Mustangs on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. (checx this bruce) in High River.
For more information about Alberta high school football go to www.footballalberta.ab.ca