The next South Asian CFL star to watch out for is Sukh Chungh. The top-ranked offensive lineman recently signed a major deal with the BC Lions for the next three years. The ace footballer turned his passion into a successful career at a young age.
The sport of football is meaningful and treasured in the history of sports in Canada. The Canadian Football League (CFL) has been around for 61 years and counting. There are not many South Asian athletes who make it in this league, save for some talents like David Sidoo and Bobby Singh. The next South Asian CFL star to watch out for is Sukh Chungh. The top-ranked offensive lineman recently signed a major deal with the BC Lions for the next three years. Chungh’s play and impressive accomplishments has caught the eye of the media, players and coaches alike.
Sukhjivan Singh Chungh was born and raised in Port Coquitlam, BC. He grew up playing high school football at Terry Fox Secondary School before going to play for the University of Calgary. From there, Chungh was selected with the #2 overall draft pick in the 2015 CFL draft by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He played for four full seasons with the Blue Bombers. He maintained excellent health by playing in 69 of Winnipeg’s 72 games in that time. A man 6’4” tall and weighing 300 pounds,Chungh’s towering presence has led to his reputation as a mauler who can lead a rushing attack, while also sustaining stable pass protection.
Chungh has been a rock on the offensive line for Winnipeg; he started at Guard for all four seasons. The ace player finished first in the league for total offense and rushing yards in 2017 and 2018, with him holding strong in the interior offensive line. Not only were these team results positive, but Chungh also obtained some major individual accolades for his work in the 2018 season. He was selected as both a CFL West Division All-Star as well as the coveted Canadian Football League Players’ Association (CFLPA) All-Star. Chungh remains very humble about these awards as he notes that he is a “product of his environment” and the team is what makes these awards possible.
The CFL award is finalized by media and coaches who choose the best players of each division. The CFLPA awards are arguably more prestigious as these are voted on by the players of the league; the winners are not just the best in their division but the best in the entire league. Chungh appreciates these accolades, especially the CFLPA honour. “It really meant a lot that the players who played with me and those around the league noticed me and my game.” The news of the all-star selection was a dream come true.
As a kid, Chungh played soccer. However, he soon shifted to football after spending a lot of time in the weight room. While recalling his young days, the South Asian star mentions that he “was always a bigger kid growing up. My dad and my grandpa were great influences for me to hit the weight room.” From that point on, Chungh was on a path to the CFL as he developed physically. As someone who joined the sport late, he was fighting from behind just to get on the field. “Even though I was a big kid, it was hard to get on the field. As I got older, I kept applying the fundamentals to my work from the weight room and went from there,” explains Chungh.
In just a matter of three years, Chungh went from football novice to someone who could make an impact in football. His time at the University of Calgary also taught him that the key to success lies in discipline, and he has lived by this rule ever since. After a successful university career, Chungh had his sights set on the CFL and went into the draft as a highly touted prospect.
Winnipeg gave Chungh the opportunity to start from day one. Ever since they drafted him, he has excelled with flying colours and he will always respect the association and the team for what they did for him. However, after this last season he was eligible to hit the open market as a free agent. After a dominant season with individual accolades to boot, he certainly garnered a serious amount of attention from around the league. Chungh made the decision to enter free agency where all the pieces fell in place for his next move. Joining BC Lions was the ideal option, “The team with the most interest was BC, my hometown. It just made perfect sense to come back home, play for the hometown team and start this next journey.” With this move, Chungh is elated that he can now live in BC year-round as opposed to his prior arrangement of Winnipeg during the season and back home during the offseason. Being closer to friends and family was certainly a big draw for the lineman.
The BC Lions have a big season ahead of them. The team has not made the Grey Cup since 2011 and have struggled mightily in the playoffs for the past five years. General Manager Ed Hervey is in control for his second season with the club, and brought in DeVone Claybrooks to be the head coach of the team. Together, they went into this offseason looking to refresh the vast majority of the roster, and have made some big moves to indicate a strong push in the upcoming season. Chungh is very enthusiastic about the move, “Ed and DeVone have a message for everyone to come together and accomplish our goals. Everyone knows what’s at stake, we are here to build a winning culture,” says BC Lion’s newest player.
This CFL offseason involved a significant number of key contributors for teams hitting the open market. Many teams have dealt with turnover but none more than the Lions who had the flexibility to be aggressive in free agency and used this to rebuild the team and become a threat in the West. “It’s going to take some time, but we are not all young players, we are hungry veterans eager to work together. Everyone is very excited with the direction of the club,” Chungh remarks. The team is slowly coming together but adding a major player like Chungh definitely has the BC Lions pleased with where they are in terms of rebuilding the roster.
While Chungh is a major signing for the team, another big acquisition this offseason was signing quarterback Mike Reilly to a massive contract of four years. Protecting Reilly was BC Lions’ top priority once they signed him, and with that, their focus shifted to Chungh. Seen as a mauler with sound technique, Chungh fits perfectly with this offense and gives the Lions a high-profile protector to add to their stable offensive line. The CFL is a pass predominant league; Chungh knows that “with clean pockets, he can tear up the field. We are going to be an explosive team with a strong air attack, so I need to make sure I can give him the time he needs.” Shifting from the power run game of Winnipeg to a stronger offensive emphasis on throwing the ball, the start athlete knows that the key is to develop his pass protection ability and he aims to refine those skills and make that another major strength to round out his game.
The offensive lineman is an incredibly important position. The offensive line for a team, made up by two tackles, two guards and a center can make or break a team. When discussing his goals for the season, Chungh stated that “while there aren’t many stats for offensive linemen, my goal is to celebrate in the endzone as much as possible and end games with wins.” A grounded Chungh doesn’t let any individual award sights detract from his goal of team success for the season. The offensive line had been a weakness for the Lions for years, but now, this dream team could push them over the top and into the Grey Cup race.
Chungh has been the subject of a fair amount of buzz in the city among football fans. Both hardcore and casual BC Lions fans have taken notice of his signing and are anticipating a big season for the team. “I didn’t expect to see this much hype over a guard, but I am grateful of the opportunity to shine for them,” comments the lineman. Not only will fans appreciate a local kid coming back home to play for the team, Chungh is also an important representative of the South Asian community. “Being in Vancouver there’s a very relatable community. I have friends and family here. I am thrilled to bring the representation to the game,” Chungh proclaims. When asked about the possibility of a South Asian night, the BC footballer did reveal that plans are in the works, and it will truly mean a lot for him and his team to represent the culture on the big stage. Chungh points out that he sees more young Punjabi kids playing football now than before and finds it “truly amazing to see these young kids in our community joining the sport and attempting to make an impact.” It would not be surprising to see more South Asian kids at the game this year as Chungh makes his mark with the BC Lions.
Being a man of a big size and stature, Chungh knows the importance of a good workout schedule and the required athleticism for the game. Each week, Sukh fitness schedule includes “lifting 3-4 days with 2-3 days of running. Every morning I wake up, eat a healthy breakfast and get to training. Over the years I [have] learned about what my body needs and work on what I need to improve.” He has transitioned from a heavy powerlifting focus to a more functional training approach.
Outside of the game, Chungh is a sports fan who just loves watching any sport he can in his spare time. He also likes to grill and barbecue and is very good in the kitchen. His other passion comes from spending his offseason in Vancouver. “I love being outside, [and] love the nature. Between the mountains and the water, [it] can’t get better than that. It’s a beautiful province.” Chungh also shares that he has become an avid hiker and recommends it for those looking for a relaxing and physically healthy adventure.
The Port-Coquitlam native is also an active member in the community and looks forward to furthering these efforts here in BC. “I love to work in the community and spread my word, share my story. I am excited to be part of the plans in the community.” Chungh’s achievements in the sport have made him a role model on and off the field among young kids interested in football.
His work ethic and professional development is something all South Asian kids can learn from. Few South Asian athletes have the level of individual honours that Chungh has, and the success he has achieved from his journey is certainly meaningful. Chungh has a vital message for the youth in the community and beyond: “Do what you love to do. Don’t just do what someone tells you; find a passion that drives you. It’s just so much easier to show up to work when you love what you do.” Chungh turned his passion into a successful career at a young age. He has already established himself as one of the best in his position and looks to further his reputation by helping to win a championship for his hometown team.
Photos: A Master Media, Courtesy of BC Lions, Sukh Chungh