RICHMOND — Reace Mok is quick enough to dodge almost anything, yet bring up the compact nature of his physique and the contrast it has always created on the gridiron, and you discover how fast he can also use words to diffuse any concerned first impressions.
“Being the smallest means you have to be the toughest,” says Mok, the standout running back from Richmond’s Hugh Boyd Secondary, who next season will be one of the more diminutive players in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference when he begins his collegiate football career with the Simon Fraser Clan.
“I’ve always been the smallest guy on the team, like forever,” adds Mok, whose listed vitals of 5-foot-7 and 155 pounds will likely place him amongst the most compact players in the five-team GNAC. “But whatever I have lacked in size and strength, I make up for with toughness.”
Watch his extensive highlight tape, from both Boyd’s 2016 and ’17 campaigns, and you’ll catch yourself laughing at the ways in which Mok has made deception the essence of his game.
Seemingly tensed in a constant state of feign, there is so much change of direction in his game, including a most natural 360-degree spin-off initial contact at the line of scrimmage, that new Clan head coach Thomas Ford found himself enamoured.
“How I look at it in general,” begins Ford, “is that if you are a smaller player you’re probably not playing defence for us. But on offence, if you’re smaller, then how fast and how elusive are you?”
Ford studied Mok’s film with the Trojans and saw someone, that in the best possible way, was incredibly greasy.
“At the end of the day, the defence still has to tackle you,” continued Ford, “and when you put in Reace’s tape, he is not easy to tackle. He has this innate ability with his awareness, his quickness, his balance and his low centre of gravity that makes him so tough to deal with. And he’s versatile. He can really catch the ball out of the backfield.”
TROJAN SPIRIT WILL ENDURE
The recent news that the 2017 season would be the final one for football at Hugh Boyd was devastating news for the sport at the high school level in B.C.
Richmond was once a heartbeat stronghold for the game provincially, and it’s a culture and a community that Mok grew up in from the moment he took his first hand-off as a fourth-grader with the community-based Richmond Raiders.
Remaining the eternal optimist, Mok said Thursday that if he had to go by his gut, the program would be saved.
“Everyone is trying to work it out,” said Mok, “and in my opinion, I think they might have jumped the gun a bit. I am looking forward to coming back and watching Friday Night Lights. It’s my chance to stay connected. That’s where my thoughts are right now, but I really feel for the all of the (current) Grade 11s and 10s.”
With the very existence of the program in jeopardy just as he and his fellow seniors are set to leave the school, Mok admits there is heightened sense permeating through the Class of 2018 as to how fortunate they all were to have the program’s coaching brothers — Bill and Bruce Haddow — keep the program vital for so many seasons.
“Everything I have been able to become is because of them,” said Mok, who over the 16 combined games which comprised his Grade 11 and 12 seasons, rushed for 1,907 yards and 20 touchdowns.
“You can’t thank anyone enough for something like that, all the countless hours, and their decades of work,” he added.
HE MEANS BUSINESS
Whether any, many or few of the incoming Class of 2018 high school recruits sees immediate playing time this coming season is unknown.
Ask Mok about his future, and like all pure freshmen, he is eager to contribute in any way he can.
“I will play anywhere,” says Mok, “as long as I can get onto the field. That is where I want to be.”
Through a high school career in which he virtually never left the field on offence or as a safety on defence, about the only time he got to catch his breath was during kick-off and punt-return situations.
Ford says he can envision a situation where Mok can eventually make an impact on special teams.
“I can see him having an early role returning punts,” Ford said earlier this offseason. “He has great hips.”
Of course if he can glean anything through osmosis from Gavin Cobb, the Clan’s star athlete and perhaps the best return man in the D2 ranks, that’s an added bonus.
“They are different kinds of players,” says Ford. “Gavin (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) has more straight-line speed and Reace is more of a guy in the backfield. So he’s a little different than Gavin Cobb, but he can bring the same kind of elusiveness.”
For a while, Mok thought a university football career might be a little elusive but he never stopped believing he could find a fit, and he says SFU is the first place he wanted to go.
“School was the most important thing,” said Mok, who is enrolled in the Beedie School of Business and is pondering the possibilities of perhaps studying law down the road. “I was going to go to university with or without football. But in my personal opinion, there was no question I could play at the next level. And that has to be your mentality.”
Mok’s mom Simmy always liked the name Reece, but she wanted her son’s first name to have a more unique spelling, so she swapped in an ‘A’.
Losing an ‘E’ it seems, did nothing to hurt his elusiveness.
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