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The unexpected Stinger

by Archives September 9, 2008

The Concordia Stingers didn’t recruit freshman Sasha Palatnikov while watching him play for a junior team. They didn’t recruit him while playing CÉGEP football. They didn’t even meet him on a football field. In fact, they never even saw him play football. Football head coach Gerry McGrath first met Palatnikov at a basketball game last winter. And Palatnikov hadn’t even played a down of football in his life.
“I didn’t know who he was,” McGrath recalls.
“He was about 210-215 lbs, but the way he walked and carried himself got my attention. I asked him if he ever played football, and he said ‘No.'”
The irony is that on the Stingers roster, Palatnikov’s last team is listed as Concordia rugby. Palatnikov, a history major from Brisbane, Australia played rugby in his homeland and first went to the rugby team only to find that the level of play in Canada is much less than in his native Australia.
That, along with the chance meeting with McGrath led him to football.
“There are a lot of transferable skills,” Palatnikov said.
“Obviously there’s still the contact and with the pads I feel like I have a weapon now,” he said with a smile when comparing the two sports.
“It was a big adjustment,” said Palatnikov, who is now listed at 235 lbs on the Stingers roster.
“I was with the team throughout the summer, waking up at 6:00 a.m., stayed over the summer, didn’t go home and watched tons of tape,” he said.
While Friday night’s season opener against Bishop’s was Palatnikov’s first regular season football game (his first ever game was when the Stingers traveled to Saskatoon to face the University of Saskatchewan in late August), he still has a very impressive statistics line.
In the exhibition game against the University of Saskatchewan, he had two tackles – both for losses – and against Bishop’s he had two tackles again, including his first career sack in the fourth quarter when he took down Gaiters quarterback Jesse Andrews.
“I was pretty excited to get my first sack,” the defensive lineman said. “I’m still learning. I was learning [throughout the game on Friday]. The reason I’m here today is because of the coaches who worked with me from the beginning,” he said.
McGrath was willing to give some of the credit back to his new defensive lineman.
“You could tell right away,” he said, “he has put in tremendous effort and has been pretty good for us.”

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