His contribution is underrated, but just one of his kicks can be the difference between victory and defeat. Mockery related to his position, David Côté is able to take it, because he knows, deep down, how useful he is. Foray into the mind and daily life of the Montreal Alouettes kicker.
The temperature felt exceeded 40 near the synthetic turf located between Olympic Stadium and Saputo Stadium during Alouettes training. After more than two hours of hard work, Côté showed up, showered, at the L’Insolite gourmet space at the Olympic Stadium.
He had put on a blue-gray Alouettes t-shirt and worn black Rouge et Or shorts from Laval University. This is why the course of the 26-year-old athlete is worthy of interest.
“When I was little, I went to see the Rouge et Or with my father. He’s had tickets for I don’t know how many years,” says the native of Lebourgneuf, 15 minutes from PEPS. A few years later, Côté will have marked the history of the program.
As a child, he also watched Anthony Calvillo, Ben Cahoon and Luc Brodeur-Jourdain. “I came to the Gray Cup when it was here at Olympic Stadium against Calgary. The Alouettes were my team. He still is today, more than ever, and he is a key element in the success of the brigade.
Last year, he finished fourth in Canadian League kicking with an 86.3% field goal percentage. Since the start of the season, he has converted six of his seven attempts.
Côté is no ordinary kicker. At six-foot-four and 215 pounds, he could have made a career out of any position on the court.
He earns his living thanks to football, but he has to ignore every day the misunderstanding of his profession by the people around him.
“A lot of people can kick 50 yards, but not be precise and do it with the pressure that comes with it,” he argues with his big water bottle in hand as Taylor Swift’s Anti-Hero tune echoes through the restaurant.
“There are always running gags about kickers. I heard them all,” he swears. Even that he laughs about it with those who want to have a good laugh. However, he takes his job very seriously. So much so that he has become a leader in his field. “When you get in for a field goal, you’re looking at the ball. If it’s in it’s good, if it’s not it’s not good. In general, all the pressure is on you and the foot decides. »
The pressure, he manages it magnificently well according to his trainer Byron Archambault: “He has composure! Even if the moment is great, even if he missed one before, he is still able to respond. He forgets easily and that’s a great strength about him. »
Kickers have a common duty to be ready and effective at all times. In the final game at Percival-Molson Stadium, Côté waited in the pouring rain for nearly two and a half hours between his first and second kick. “We don’t board often, so when we board, we expect it to be perfect. »
Side is imperfect. And he knows it. However, it is not for lack of will. The margin between a failed kick and a successful kick is very small. Practice and repetition are key, because yes, contrary to popular belief, kickers practice as much as other players, he says.
The short kicking team is on the pitch about 30 minutes before practice begins, “because often in practice there is not enough space. We go out first and do most of our work,” he said.
“We often work in the shadows. During practice, we kick when there are holes. We try to take the place that there is. Then the kickers return to the practice room, “just like everyone else.”
So much work and development allows him to be completely in tune with his art. “As soon as I touch it [the ball], I know if it’s in it or not: 95% of the time I could walk away before the kick is delivered knowing the result. »
To simulate a game situation, the special teams coach pushes him, shoves him, spins around him or stops the ball just before the kickoff.
“We never hesitate to send Dave into the fray. We know he is reliable. We think that with him, it’s three guaranteed points for us, “says Archambault vigorously.
However, there will be times when the touch will not be precise enough, adequate enough, perfect enough. When looked at coldly, the kicker’s mission is both simple and repetitive: kick the ball between two posts.
However, imponderables arrive that can crush certainty. Most other players can improvise. Several options are available to them if their initial plan falls through. Side, in any case, must send the ball to the center of the target. And the result is unequivocal. There is no room for interpretation. It’s success or it’s failure.
Last year, he missed seven placements. The real work begins once the ball has passed outside the yellow rods.
” You are angry. But once you miss it, what do you want to do? It will always happen to miss one here and there. I know I will miss others, but I know I will have others too,” he replies.
When that happens, in his mind, the frustration must only last for a fraction of a second. “You can’t stay focused on your last miss or your game is over.” »
In the memory of Quebec football fans, Damon Duval’s winning kick in the 2009 Gray Cup, following a penalty that canceled his first failed attempt, is an unforgettable memory.
Obviously, Côté would like to be at the heart of a moment like this. “You kinda play for it,” he admits. I do a lot of viewing in the evening, especially the day before games, and I think of kicks like that. It excites me more than it stresses me out. »
In the meantime, Côté has a job to do and he wants to apply himself. “My job is to be one-on-one every time,” he says. Every game, I know I’m going to help the team, but how, I don’t know. I know it at the time. »
These moments, he wants to turn them into opportunities to shine. For all the times he was teased. For all the times he was underestimated. David Côté is an exceptional kicker aware of his value. But above all, he is a proud athlete. Proud of him, proud of his team and proud to have already been able to achieve his dreams.