Cory Schachtel| Esks.com Staff
EDMONTON -- Edmonton Eskimos receiver Nate Coehoorn grew up a Calgary Stampeders fan, but don’t hold it against him.
“I wasn’t really a diehard fan. It was more just because of the proximity to my hometown,” said Coehoorn.
That hometown is Medicine Hat, AB. so it’s understandable the University of Calgary product fell under the province’s typical north-south divide when it came to sports.
He wasn’t a diehard fan of the Stamps growing up, but he was a diehard fan of sports – all sports.
“I grew up a fan of everything: football, hockey, basketball. I even played some badminton. Actually, baseball was my main sport growing up. I didn’t play football until grade 10.”
Nate switched sports for one reason.
“I like the contact. I pride myself on being a physical receiver [and] on being aggressive. Whenever I can make a big block, it’s great. And I love playing special teams just as much as offence.”
Recently, Head Coach Kavis Reed said Coehoorn, the Eskimos’ first pick in the 2011 draft, fifth overall, is progressing nicely and is a big part of the team’s long-term plan.
The six-foot-two receiver agrees.
“Last year, I wasn’t in the starting offence so I worked more in the off-season on things like route running and my speed. I think I’m progressing well and, you know, it’s my plan to be here long term too.”
The last few years have been good for the 25-year-old. The on-field success isn’t even the best part. Back in 2008, a chance encounter with a petite and persistent Australian girl named Ali started a story that includes a fairy-tale wedding earlier this year.
“She hit on me.”
“It’s true,” says Ali. “I did hit on him. I had come to Calgary for the Stampede and started talking to him in the restaurant he worked at. He didn’t really talk much at first though so I bailed. Later, my brother was talking to him so I went over and tried again. He was a lot more friendly the second time.”
After doing the long distance thing for a few years, Nate brought his immediate family and close friends to the Pennant Hills Golf Club in Willoughby, a suburb on the lower North Shore of Sydney, where a minister Ali grew up with married them in front of 100 guests.
No one would call a permanent move overseas easy, but Ali is dealing with it well, especially since her husband’s aggressive side is exclusively work-related.
“He probably wouldn’t like me saying this, but he’s actually pretty sensitive for a man. He really cares about having a strong relationship and our home life is very important to him. He makes it very easy to enjoy the new country. The only thing I really miss is my family.”
One thing she won’t miss is work. Ali’s job as head coach of the University of Alberta rowing team and Edmonton Rowing Club’s senior competitive athletes has eased the transition from her work back home: coxswain of Australia’s national rowing team.
Her slight stature and fondness for the mental side of sports makes her perfect for the coxswain position where she was tasked with keeping her teammate’s timing and pace, essentially the on-boat coach during every race.
Showing promise as a coxswain from the time she took up the sport as a teenager, the Olympics were a very real possibility for Ali. However, due to expense, the Australian women’s rowing program only sends a team when gold is likely.
Shortly after meeting Nate, she retired from coxswain and moved into the head coach position. The subsequent marriage and move to Canada meant Ali missed her chance at Olympic gold. She doesn’t regret a thing and she’s ecstatic to be her former teammate’s number one fan.
“I’m so excited because all of my friends are on the team this year so that’s going to be awesome. I’m already a huge summer Olympics fan but more so this year because the main bulk of the team is the group I competed with.”
Let the games begin.