March 1, 2024

Armed with his parents’ work ethic, Dariusz Bladek aims to put his stamp on REDBLACKS’ offensive line

Hard work is a prerequisite to be a Bladek, a mindset that has been passed down to the Ottawa REDBLACKS free agent acquisition, Dariusz Bladek.

From the time Bladek was just a young kid living in New Jersey, he saw how hard his mother and father worked to put food on the table. Bladek’s father, Bo, is an immigrant from Poland, who worked in construction until the economic downturn in 2008, when he lost his job, and moved his family to Orlando, starting his own construction company, Bladek Construction Inc.

Only 13 at the time, Bladek started going to work with his father, being tasked with little projects, gradually increasing as he grew older. He didn’t always like it, saying there were times he’d rather have been hanging out with friends, but it laid the foundation for the summer routine he’s living today.

In the offseason, Bladek has continued working for his father, not for the money, but for the chance to spend time with family.

“Whenever my dad and I get to work together, it’s probably some of the best times,” Bladek said. “We bond through our work.”

“I do whatever the job needs, but it’s normally tear down and rebuild. It’s a lot of renovations to older stores, and we come in and do the tile, the plumbing, new walls, block work, woodwork, framing, we do it all.”

Throughout the years, Bladek says that he’s been taught just about everything there is to know about the business by both his father, and his mother, who works hard behind the scenes to take care of the company’s financials, but it’s the lessons he’s learned through work that stand out as the most important.

“I’m really fortunate, my father has taught me a lot,” he said. “He always instilled a big work ethic in me, and he always expected a lot.”

“We’ll be working a 14-hour day, and my feet will be sore, and I’ll be ready to go, but he’s doing the little things, making sure things are clean. The things he brings to his work have been instilled in me and my work. I always stay late in the gym, and I focus on the extra details in the meeting room, just because my father has always done that for his work.”

Bladek has seen his parents work the thankless hours, and do the little things someone might not even notice, but they never gave anything but their full effort. After winning a Grey Cup with the Toronto Argonauts in 2022, Bladek suffered an ankle injury and missed the entire 2023 season, two-thirds of which he watched from the sideline as a healthy scratch.

The whole time, Bladek went back to his roots. He worked as hard as he could and did everything in his power to make sure he was happy with the job he was doing, reminding himself of how lucky he was to be playing football as a career.

“My dad came to America from Poland with nothing, and that always reminds me how hard life was for him,” Bladek said. “I have nothing to complain about, whether it’s lifting weights, practice, or getting up and moving block and loading the truck.”

In reality, watching his Argos teammates from the sidelines stung Bladek. There’s no space for looking back as the calendar flips closer to the start of the 2024 season, but there is clearly a desire that burns red hot in his belly to prove his doubters wrong.

“There’s definitely a chip on my shoulder to regain the position I was in before,” Bladek said. “But I’m just excited to be playing football again, it’s more about this situation in Ottawa. It’s a new team and a new challenge, and that’s what I’m looking forward to. I’m excited to put my stamp on it.”

Signing with the REDBLACKS made sense for a couple of reasons for Bladek. Firstly, it offered him an opportunity to prove to his doubters he belongs, but it also brings a smile to his mother’s face, thanks to a special coincidence.

“Ottawa is a place that believes in me,” Bladek said. “They came to me, and they had a plan laid out for me. I feel like I can come here and grow, and can make a good bond with the team to create a winning culture. It feels like the right place for me to be.”

“[My mother] jokes with me that we’re lumberjacks now. My mother was adopted and raised by Italians in New Jersey, but we found out from her adoption papers that her family were French lumberjacks.”

In much the same way Bladek bonds with his father through work, he’s looking forward to getting into the meeting room and onto the field in training camp, as he and the rest of the offensive line unit seek to build a cohesive group of brothers.

“It’s why I love playing offensive line,” Bladek said. “It’s those things you have to lean into. It’s communication and work, and you have to find passion in that. Football isn’t always easy, but if you can look at work as a place to bond, it becomes easier.”