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Burke Dales (1977 – 2024): Football player dubbed ‘most aggressive punter in kicking history’

Concordia grad and all-star Calgary Stampeder redefined his position
January 15, 2024
By Will Pelloux

 Focused football player with eye black, wearing a red jersey and a black cap, in a blurred stadium background. The late Burke Dales at a Calgary Stampeders game | Photo: Calgary Stampeders

Concordia graduate Burke Dales, BA 03, who went on to become an all-star punter and Grey Cup champion in the Canadian Football League (CFL), passed away on January 6. He was 46.

Dales enjoyed a storied professional-level career after making his mark on the Concordia Stingers football team in the early 2000s.

He played the bulk of his years with the Calgary Stampeders where his 45.6-yard punt average stands third all-time among the team’s kickers.

“Burke excelled during his career with the Stampeders and he brought an uncommon level of competitiveness to his position,” said team president John Hufnagel in an online statement. “We offer our deepest condolences to his family and friends.”

Kicking off at Concordia

Born in Collingwood, Ont., and raised in Brockville, Dales pursued studies in political science and sociology at Concordia when not making tackles. At six-foot-three and 225 pounds, he had a build that intimidated opponents on the field.

When Dales underwent reconstructive surgery on his shoulder, his surgeon told him that his days of contact football were behind him. He showed his trademark grit by devoting himself to mastering the kicking side of the game.

“Life throws you a curve ball and you just have to deal with it,” said Dales of his positional pivot.

 A football player in a red jersey with the number 16 smiles while holding a helmet, wearing eye black under his eyes, and a black cap, indicating he's a member of the Calgary Stampeders team in a stadium setting. Photo: Calgary Stampeders

With the help of former Stingers head football coach and CFL player Gerry McGrath, Dales was named All-Canadian Punter in 2002.

“Burke had an amazing energy and positive attitude,” said Paul Chesser, BA 94, GrDip 97, vice-president of Advancement at Concordia, who coached Dales in his Stingers days. “I enjoyed his enthusiasm for sports and his competitive approach. He was committed to be the best at everything he did.

“He is mourned by all his friends and teammates and will be missed by all."

Pittsburgh’s loss was Calgary’s gain

Dales also earned an opportunity to try out with the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League (NFL), but the team passed on adding him to its roster.

He rebounded from the NFL disappointment and tried out for the Stampeders’ punting duties in 2005. He earned the job and quickly broke the mould of the typical tackle-averse punter.

Former Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris once called Dales “the most aggressive punter in kicking history” for the way he courted contact on the field.

Dales suited up seven years for the Stampeders. In addition to playing a key role on the organization’s 2008 Grey Cup championship-winning team, he was a fixture on league all-star lists.

He ended his Calgary tenure as a four-time CFL West Division all-star (2006, 2009, 2010, 2011), a two-time CFL all-star (2010 and 2011), and the Stampeders’ most outstanding special teams player in 2010.

He played briefly with the then-Edmonton Eskimos and the Montreal Alouettes before retiring from the game in 2013.

After hanging up his cleats, Dales made his home in Calgary where he pursued business ventures in the oil and gas industry.

A football player through and through, he devoted much of his time in recent years to building the Stampeders football community in his adopted city.

A service celebrating Dales’ impact on others was held on January 12 in Airdrie, Alta.

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