The opportunity to play alongside a future Hall of Famer is rare in this business. To be fortunate enough to say that one has strapped up with TWO guaranteed Hall of Fame players, is unreal. Seeing former teammates Eddie Davis and Gene Makowsky being enshrined forever amongst the CFLs greats this past weekend was quite the occasion, but it really hit home for myself and many of my other former teammates because E.D and Geno had an unbelievable effect on our careers as professional athletes.
Is was pretty cool to witness all of the support and love that both players were given during the various events of Hall of Fame Weekend here in Saskatchewan. Knowing how tough it is to remain consistent in professional football, its mind boggling that Davis and Makowsky managed to put together ELITE performances week in and week out for over a decade at their respective positions.
What CFL fans were privileged to see on a nightly basis from Saskatchewans latest members of the HOF pales in comparison to the education that teammate’s received on a daily basis throughout the years. Being able to watch Geno and E.D go through the CFL practise schedules, and witness their game day routines was invaluable to everyone around them. It was like we all had a “Football for Dummies” manual in our back pockets.
One of the MANY attributes that jumps out when discussing the incredible careers of Davis and Makowsky was how incredibly detail oriented both Hall of Famers were.
As a young CFL hopeful searching for ways to improve in 2004, I approached E.D when he was finishing up some film study he had been doing after a practise. My intentions were to ask him how to watch film in order to give myself an edge on my competition, whether it be an opponent or another player in my own position group. I figured that his response was going to be brief and to the point, maybe outlining a thing or two to look for; seeing as I was a young nobody and he had better things to do…like go be Eddie Davis!
What followed was a lesson that I would take with me for my entire CFL career…
Eddie sat with me for the next hour and showed me how to WATCH film instead of just looking at it. He taught me that I needed to put myself in the situation, along with a relevant defensive call vs. just watching for what type of steps an opposing Olineman is going to take. E.D showed me how to look at opponents situational tendencies vs. how each guy pass blocks or what he’s good at.
It was all in the details for Davis.
I can’t imagine how much wisdom he imparted on the guys who actually played his position. I know how much E.D meant to the careers of guys like Lance Frazier and Tad Kornegay.
Davis wasn’t just our leader on the field. The foundation for his success was laid far before the lights of a CFL stadium came on. Eddie Davis understood how to unlock the details of the game through the film that we were all privy too. He did it better than anyone, and thankfully he shared his knowledge with players and coaches alike.
Geno was different. I never witnessed the way he studied film, however I did get to see how hard he worked during the off season, and how he approached taking care of his body in the weight room during that year. Being able to play the well for that long at the Offensive Tackle and Guard spots requires the ability to take the worst types of physical abuse possible, and Geno did it year in and year out without being slowed by MAJOR injuries for any extended periods of time. His commitment to conditioning isn't something that many people talk about when they speak of Makowsky, however he should be recognized by how hard he worked at staying CFL game-ready.
Gene will go down as one of the most technically sound Offensive Tackles in the game, and myself and a couple of fellow defensive linemen were always fascinated by Geno’s play; especially how it related to his pre-game routine.
After our own pre-game warmup we used to sit and take note as Makowsky would stand fully dressed before a game, and go over a series of small steps over and over again, all the way up to the signal for the opening whistle. This 3 or 4 step combination that #60 did EVERY pre-game was the cornerstone of his success and technical reputation, and it made many of us realize how important the technical aspect of the pro game was. Geno taught us that a player can’t just go out there and physically bully an opponent at the CFL level if we wanted to win. One had to stress fundamental technique.
It was amazing to go back to the film and watch as Geno transferred his simple series of detailed steps before the game into CLINIC FILM on how to block some of the best pass rushers in the Canadian Football League. No matter who the player was, or what the situation, Gene always relied on his footwork technique to get the job done. That type of belief in a system is uncommon, and can only be found in the greats.
One could pen an entire novel on what it was like being in the locker room with Eddie Davis and Gene Makowsky. You’ll hear former teammates reminisce over Eddie’s vocal leadership and how he carried our defense. People will always chuckle over Geno’s propensity to keep his word count to a minimum.
There are so many reasons why E.D and Geno were able to take their place amongst the CFLs greatest athletes, but if one wants to take a profound look into the Hall of Fame Careers of #60 and #29, look no further than the players that have gotten to share the locker room with them. Both players made everyone around them better. Both players taught so many of us how to be true professionals.
Throughout the grass-roots football programs and at the collegiate levels, there are kids emulating the play of guys like Eddie Davis and Gene Makowsky. There’s someone that is working tirelessly to be the next #60 or the next #29. It’s important for those young players to know how much Geno and E.D worked on the FUNDAMENTAL DETAILS of their game.
The Hall of Fame rewards the greatest that the CFL has ever seen. The best part of Gene Makowsky and Eddie Davis’ careers seem to be the rewards that have been bestowed upon their teammates more than anyone else. It was an honour and a privilege to suit up with both men, and seeing them take their rightful place in history was incredible.
Thank you Geno. Thank you E.D.