Edmonton

Edmonton Eskimos football player trades shoulder pads for hospital scrubs

For one Edmonton Eskimo football player, the uncertainty of the next few months has ended.

Defensive tackle Mark Mackie resigns from CFL to attend medical school in Ontario

Eskimos defensive tackle Mark Mackie, shown here in a May 2019 game in Edmonton, was a last-round draft pick who went on to play 29 games for the team. He has retired to go to medical school. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

For one Edmonton Eskimo football player, the uncertainty of the next few months has ended.

Mark Mackie, a defensive tackle who played the last two seasons with the Esks, will trade shoulder pads for hospital scrubs after being accepted into medical school at Western University in London, Ont.

"It was in the big-picture plan to one day apply to medical school, so it's been a dream come true this past week," said Mackie, who earned a kinesiology degree from McMaster in 2017.

That was the same year that he became a last-round pick in the Canadian Football League draft. The Eskimos made him the 67th of 71 players picked.

The London, Ont., native played 29 career games over two seasons, during which he recorded four defensive tackles, 14 special teams tackles and one quarterback sack.

Mackie was informed last week that he'd been accepted into Western's Schulich School of Medicine. Two days later, the team announced his retirement from the league.

The six-month off-season was used to study for the notoriously difficult Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), Mackie told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM on Tuesday. 

This spring, Mackie joined other CFL players in waiting for news on what would happen with the league's season in light of ongoing restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

His retirement means that league play will only affect him as a fan, but he said coronavirus uncertainty will also affect his return to school.

"It could be all online, and that creates challenges too. I mean, I don't know how you'd go about anatomy labs online, learning how to do a physical exam online for example," he said.

With his years in high school, university and professional football, combined with his interest in movement and muscular biology, sports medicine might seem like an obvious direction but Mackie said he'll be keeping an open mind.

"With medicine, there are so many different ways you can take it. I don't know if I know exactly what I want to do just yet," he said. "But I'm obviously interested in that kind of world and full circle, to bring back to sports somehow, that would be really cool."

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