CFL Derek “Bonecrusher” Dennis Interview

CFL Derek “Bonecrusher” Dennis Interview

Derek “Bonecrusher” Dennis is a well known CFL football player. He is an offensive lineman for the Calgary Stampeders. This is his third time playing for them, as he previously played for them in the 2015-2016 season and the 2018-2019 season. Dennis started playing football as a senior in high school in New York. After receiving attention from many colleges, he decided to pursue football at Temple University. He majored in Journalism at Temple and had his own radio show for two years. After playing football in college he made his debut playing in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins. He has played with a variety of American teams including the New England Patriots, Arizona Rattlers, and the Chicago Bears. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dennis to talk about football, being a father, and what’s next for him. 

Photo by: Derek Dennis

What makes Calgary so special that you came back for the third time? 

“It’s just a comfort level like it’s a place I’ve known everybody. I’ve built a name for myself. So number one was just continuing to build a legacy since I’ve played for most of my career in the CFL and then also just being in a place where I’m familiar with. I know the surroundings, the system, the people, and the city. You know as an athlete a lot of people take for granted the environment around them that contributes to them being successful and it’s always- what I always tell young athletes is that’s just as important as you being somewhere that’s going to let you be on the field and play right. You want to be somewhere where the people believe in you and understand your talents. They know how to insinuate that and they also put you in a place where you mentally can be able to handle the day to day grind that comes with playing a game of football. So, Calgary is just kind of my comfort zone and it only felt right for me to go back and finish in the place I started.” 

What do you like best about the team and the management?

“I just like the fact that they treat you like a person. They treat you like an adult. They don’t try to coddle you or do too much. It’s all about being a professional and handling yourself. Being able to walk in the door and having to do what’s asked of you and doing it to the best of your ability. I’ve always felt like I’m someone who can be a leader but also be a team player in an environment that lets me be me. You know, the biggest thing that I enjoy is that I am able to be myself everyday. I don’t have to try and pretend to be nothing I’m not. I’m able to come in, be myself, enjoy going to work, enjoy the people I work with and be able to be productive in that sense.” 

What about Calgary’s culture brings you comfort?

“I like Calgary because it kind of reminds me of a smaller version of New York. Canada is one of those countries that’s a melting pot. You meet so many people from different nationalities and different backgrounds. You are able to experience the world in one place. It’s kind of what it was like growing up in New York being able to meet different people from different backgrounds and cultures and being able to blend. If you want to go to different parts of the city and experience something different you’re able to do that. So I think me being a New Yorker and growing up in probably the biggest melting pot in the world, being able to go to Calgary and kinda having that same feel of it is what makes me comfortable being there.” 

Photo by: Derek Dennis

After winning the Grey Cup in 2018, CFL All-Star and CFL’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman Award in 2016, and winning CFL West All-Star in 2016, 2018, 2019, in your opinion what are some of the defining moments in your career?

“Yeah, I mean I’ve had a lot. Those are definitely some of the biggest ones in my career for sure. I would say probably the defining one was 2016 winning lineman of the year because it was the year where I was a couple years removed from college. I was still trying to find my path in my pro career and I hadn’t really gotten settled yet and it was like a coming out party for me that year in the sense that I knew I was talented. I knew what I could do. I just never got that opportunity. It was the year I got the opportunity to show people what I was about and to be able to be recognized as a guy who was the best guy in the league and be an all star and be able to play in championship games. That was the defining moment for me in a sense of my career going on the trajectory that it’s on now. I was able to go out there and show people what I always knew I could do and I got recognized for it. So I would say that probably my biggest defining moment is in 2016 winning the lineman of the year award.”

What has been your biggest challenge as an athlete and how did you overcome it?

“I would say my biggest challenge is understanding the business aspect of being a professional athlete. I think a lot of guys kind of think it’s just about being talented and being able to show your talent. There’s so much more to it outside of being talented in a sense of your character, how you carry yourself, understanding your business acumen and knowing how to use yourself as a brand but also understand the platform you’re given. As a pro athlete I think it’s big. A lot of guys miss out on their opportunities to take advantage of it so I would say for me if you’re understanding the business aspect of being a pro athlete and understanding the platform it comes with and trying to use that platform to the best of your ability. Whether it be setting yourself up for life after football, being able to give back to your community, or being able to impact people in some way everyday. Whether it be through interaction on social media, getting out to the community doing community service, or just like I said being that kind of pillar showing youth they have an opportunity to do things you did or more. Doing anything they put their mind to as long as they have some kind of dedication, hard work, and some kind of work ethic that applies to it.”

What are your pre-game rituals?

“My biggest pre-game ritual is I eat a big breakfast and I don’t eat before games. Then also being able to take care of my body to get myself ready to play. Football is a very violent game and you really have to be able to know your body and pay attention to get you where you need to be so you can perform at a high level. For me it’s always eating a really good breakfast. Pancakes and waffles are my favorite things to eat in the world so I always make sure I get some kind of pancakes or waffles in me before a game and make sure I have a nice little playlist of music to listen to as well. For sure I would say my biggest pre-game ritual is some type of breakfast with pancakes, waffles, and omelets is one thing I do ritualistically.”  

Photo by: Derek Dennis

 What do you do in your free time? 

“Nowadays I spend my free time being a dad. I actually have two children with a third on the way. So I’m expecting my third pretty soon here in a couple months. The biggest highlight is being able to be a dad and being a great role model to my oldest. He’s about to be 5 years old this year. So I take pride in being able to set a great example for him not in a sense to aspire to be a pro athlete one day but I just want to be able to show the intangibles that’s gonna help him be successful in life. I use the things I learn in sports whether it be waking up on time, being accountable, having a work ethic, or being able to be reliable when people need you. Those are things I want to teach my son as he grows older as whatever he decides he wants to do with his life whether it be pro sports or wants to be an astronaut or he wants to be the next president.  I want him to find his own path, his own way, but I want to be able to teach him characteristics he needs to be successful because what I’ve learned, the things I’ve done in sports can be carried over to anything you do in life. Being able to teach him those things is probably the biggest thing I spend my free time doing.” 

If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

“My favorite thing to eat would be a sandwich. So growing up having a bacon egg and cheese or like a turkey cold cut from the deli was my favorite thing to get like everyday. I would say a bacon egg and cheese just ‘cause I’m a New Yorker. If that’s the only thing I can eat I would be absolutely fine. I gotta make sure I have some salt, pepper, and ketchup on there for sure.”      

What kind of music and songs are on your playlist?

“I’d like to think I have a very diverse palate when it comes to music. I listen to a lot of different stuff. It is dependent on what mood I’m in and I like to mix it up. So I like to just put my playlist on shuffle and just whatever plays plays. It could be Country Music, R&B, or it could be some type of Pop. Probably some Hip Hop in there for sure. Some game days I like to just strictly listen to R&B because I just want to be relaxed and calm going into the game. Some games where I want to get- if it’s a big game and I  wanna get really hyped then I’ll play all music to get the adrenaline going. The one thing people probably don’t realize I listen to a lot is Classic Rock. So anything that’s like the Rolling Stones. I listen to a lot of Metallica. That’s definitely going to be on the playlist at least everyday. I got that from my college coach because Classic Rock was the only thing we could listen to when we would lift weights. So I kinda grew a love for it. So if I could get some “Eye of the Tiger” or something like that on the playlist for sure it’s definitely going to get played.” 

Do you have any hobbies outside of sports?

“So I went to college for Journalism actually. I always wanted to be a journalist or be in some type of media. So I would say my biggest thing that I do outside of sports is I run my own podcast. I also do a lot of freelance writing for certain blog sites to stay sharp on what I learned in college because that’s kind of my real passion. I went to a really good school, Temple University, that’s like top five in Journalism in the U.S. So I got a chance to learn everything in college like work the camera, producing, doing the weather, or doing entertainment. I had my own radio show for two years when I was in college. Also, I do a lot of content for my team. I help with video content, doing reports with some teammates, and fun stuff to show a side of me that some people don’t get to see too often.” 

Dennis’ podcast “Insights From the Locker Room” is also available on Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

Your birthday is on July 16th, so do you have anything special planned?

“I think I actually have a game the day before or the day after. So I’ll probably just be preparing to play a football game honestly, but that’s pretty much my profession. I probably wouldn’t want to spend my birthday any other way than playing the game I love, that I enjoy, that’s given me the platform I have and been able to feed my family. So I’ll probably be in the weight room or playing football or in the training room trying to make sure I stay healthy.”   

Photo by: Derek Dennis

What can people look forward to for you? 

“Right now we just started the season, the CFL 2022 season. Right now my team is 3-0. So we’re having a pretty good year. It’s still early in the season. The rest of the summer and going into the fall- just playing the game and trying to make good on the season and win another Grey cup like you stated I did in 2018. Just doing little things in my off time. I’m supposed to be hosting a free football clinic in New York in July and trying to get that up and running as well. I also do off season training for offensive linemen, so I train offensive linemen in the off season as well. I just started that this past year. Also, doing media stuff and doing some podcast stuff in the next couple of months. I’m in the process of getting that up and running as well. So just trying to keep myself busy and build my brand and name and get myself out there in any way, shape, or form so I can prepare myself if football were to end tomorrow.”

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