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Ex-Argo helps aspiring athletes get a kick out of training

'It doesn’t get any better than these guys. They are both going to be future pros,' says CFL Hall of Fame punter Hank Ilesic

Two of Canadian football’s brightest young stars have been honing their craft in Orillia.

University of Calgary punter Chris MacLean and Queen’s University placekicker Tyler Mullan have been training with Canadian Football Hall of Fame punter and Orillia resident Hank Ilesic.

Both MacLean and Mullan were named U SPORTS first-team All-Canadians for the 2022 season.

“They both train out of my private gym,” Ilesic said. “They kick out of the Rotary Place field in the summertime.”

While Ilesic praises both players for being “the best in the country,” he says they are both community-minded people, too.

“It doesn’t get any better than these guys,” he said. “They are both going to be future pros in the Canadian Football League.”

MacLean, a 23-year-old from Brampton, punted at a 46.5-yard average during the 2022 season. Eleven of his punts pinned Calgary’s opponents inside their own 20-yard line. His best of the season was a 75-yard bomb, and 25 of his 67 punts on the season travelled 50-plus yards.

MacLean started training in Orillia with Ilesic in 2015.

“My dad remembered Hank from when he played for the Toronto Argos,” MacLean said. “He looked him up on the internet and found that Hank had a gym in Orillia that he was running for athletes.”

MacLean credits both his father and Ilesic for his successful football career.

“Hank has taken me under his wing,” he said. “He has shown me the performance side of things, the mental and confidence side of things, and how to punt.”

MacLean, who has always been able to boot the ball far, says training in Orillia in the summer transformed him from a good to an elite punter.

“Training with Hank and a couple of other guys this past summer really allowed me to elevate to a whole other level,” he said. “It’s the perfect area for a training academy situation.”

Each training day starts at Ilesic’s gym before moving to the turf field at Rotary Place to run drills. Athletes from out of town then finish off their long day by swimming or fishing in Lake Couchiching.

“It’s the perfect space for us to work hard, play hard, and then unwind after that,” MacLean said.

His goal is to eventually punt for a professional team.

“I’m hoping to take another step starting next year,” he said. “If not, I’ll be going back to the University of Calgary to keep working.”

Mullan, a 19-year-old rookie from North Bay, never missed a field goal or extra point during the 2022 season. He hit all 17 field goals and all 32 point-afters.

He started playing football in Grade 7 after watching his father coach a high school team in his hometown.

“I would walk over to his practices and that’s where I learned to kick a football,” he said.

Queen’s University head coach Steve Snyder connected Mullan with Ilesic after recruiting him to be the team’s kicker.

“Hank has done a lot for me,” Mullan said. “He’s been awesome.”

He says Ilesic helped fine-tune his skills before his rookie season.

“His little tips and tricks have been super-beneficial,” he said. “I think it definitely shows how good of a coach Hank is through Chris and I being named first-team All-Canadians.

Mullan has enjoyed not only working with Ilesic but also training in Orillia at the West Orillia Sports Complex.

“It’s nice and close to Hank’s gym,” he said. “It’s always nice and quiet, it’s a nice turf field, and it has nice uprights.”

Once Mullan completes his university sports career, he will set his sights on making it to the professional level.

“I haven’t really focused on that too much as a first-year player,” he said. “I’m still in the process of maturing, growing, and getting stronger.”

His dream is to one day kick in the National Football League or the Canadian Football League.

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Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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