Nicolas Khandar, an explosive sophomore running back for the Redmen football team, is a surprising and adaptable man. A Frenchman born and raised, Khandar embraced football after moving away from the Parisian suburbs of his childhood to study in Canada. He later represented the French National Football Team in the IFAF World Championships. Khandar’s passion for football is at the heart of his journey.
“In France, American football is not a big [thing],” Khandar explained. “But [at 13,] my best friend told me—‘Oh you know American football, maybe we have to try it.’ And one day we went to the team near to our houses. It was good.”
Khandar is part of the sport’s growing popularity in France—the Federation Francaise de Football Americain boasts 208 teams and 21,085 players today in comparison with only nine teams back in 1983.
“I like a lot of aspects [of] the sport,” Khandar said. “I like the contact; I like the speed, the American culture.”
Khandar took to football quickly and joined the age group ranks of the French National Team in 2010. He was part of the fourth-place French National Team in last summer’s World Championships in Madrid. The squad blew away the competition—Khandar had two touchdowns in a 53-3 quarterfinal drubbing of Australia—before running into the powerhouse U.S.A. team. in the semifinals. Khandar had the opportunity to play under Head Coach Patrick Esume, who had previous experience as a coaching consultant with various NFL teams, including the Oakland Raiders.
“I have played with the French National Team for, maybe five years,” Khandar said, “I am a little bit nationalistic. [This summer] was a very good experience because I know a lot of the guys in the team. It was a new coaching staff, but it was a good experience.”
Khandar’s French connection got him recruited to the Cégep de Thetford, where he excelled on the football field. He recorded 1,374 yards on 9.5 yards per carry, and scored 12 touchdowns in his sole year at Thetford.
“The [coach] in Thetford, he is a French guy,” Khandar explained. “So he always watches French players, and one day he contacted me and asked me if I wanted to try in Canada, and I went.”
And, even though powerhouse programs like Laval recruited Khandar, his best friend encouraged him to come to McGill—just as he swayed his decision to play football in the first place.
“[I came] because my best friend came to McGill too, and during my visit to McGill, I really appreciated the coach, he was so cool,” Khandar said. “I [also] really liked the academic aspect.”
Khandar had a promising, but injury-riddled, sophomore campaign for McGill. He had a mid-season concussion and was on crutches after McGill’s homecoming matchup with Concordia. Khandar’s game, however, is studded with an array of jukes and excellent acceleration. His best game of the season came against Acadia where he went off for 155 yards and a touchdown on only eight carries.
For now, Khandar will continue studying for his Certificate of English Proficiency, though he hopes to transfer into the school of Dietetics and Human Nutrition. The question remains if he will he stay in Montreal after graduating. For someone used to being flexible and moving across cities, he is unsurprisingly ambivalent.
“If I find work in Montreal after school, maybe I will stay,” Khandar says.
McGill Tribune (MT): Who is your favourite superhero?
Nicolas Khandar (NK): Batman. He doesn’t have a superpower, but I think he can beat every villain because he is so smart and has all the gadgets.
MT: Do you prefer French or American rap?
MT: Which street do you prefer, Saint-Catherine or Saint-Laurent?
NK: Saint-Catherine. I like the shops, I often go shopping.
MT: What’s your favourite NFL team?
NK: Pittsburgh Steelers.
MT: Who will win the Super Bowl?
NK: Denver Broncos or Pittsburgh Steelers.