Like everyone else, he was shocked. The decision of Jordan Younger to retire blind-sided the entire Toronto Argonaut organization, but nobody would feel the impact of that move more than Matt Black.
The Toronto native, entering his fifth season in double blue, is now atop the depth chart at Younger's old position at starting safety. He's established himself as one of the best special teams players in the CFL, but has never started a game. If he gets the nod, he's ready.
"I prepare every year like I'm going to be the starter, I work my butt off", Black told TSN.ca. "I was excited when I heard the news for myself, sad for the team because we're losing great leader, a great veteran, a great friend, a knowledgeable guy that I loved learning from every year, but it's a part of the business."
Head coach Scott Milanovich is entering his second season with the Argos and has seen what Black's abilities are, on and off the field. He may be the 5'9" safety's biggest fan.
"I don't know what Matt's biggest attribute is; he's got a lot of great things going for him. He's athletic, he's tough, he's very intelligent, he's instinctive. The good thing about Matt being back there is the way we rotate (personnel) he played a lot last year. He's been a leader on this team for a while; I think Matt is going to be a natural fit there".
While it can't be underestimated how important it is to have the backing of the head coach, Black is more concerned about how he will be accepted as a starter by his teammates.
"It's more so winning the trust and respect of the guys around me because they trusted and relied on J.Y. When the bullets were flying he was the guy that organized people and barked orders and got guys lined up where they needed to be and I have to fill the void that he left".
Black is right, Younger's departure has left a void but there doesn't seem to be anyone involved with the organization that doesn't think he's the right man for the job.
Notes: Monday's practice was once again held at Holy Trinity Secondary School in Oakville ... During drills there were several different combinations of defensive backs as Pat Watkins and Pacino Horne were still out of action ... Black took first reps at safety with Bryan Payton seeing a lot of reps there as well ... The starting defensive line was Kevin Huntley and Khalif Mitchell at tackles with David Lee and Jeremy Geathers lined up at ends. The linebackers were the starters from a year ago, Robert McCune in the middle, flanked by Marcus Ball and Brandon Isaac ... Isaac is consistently the most vocal player at practice ... Left tackle Tony Washington didn't practice Monday, nor did centre Jeff Keeping. The first unit offensive line consisted of SirVincent Rogers and Chris Van Zeyl at tackles, Joel Reinders and Joe Eppele at guards. Wayne Smith moved over to center from guard ... If he continues to impress like he has going back to the first day of rookie camp, Quincy Hurst will be almost impossible to keep off the roster. He's been a standout every session ... Newly acquired receiver Romby Bryant also looked very good on Day Two ... A familiar face graced the sidelines for the second session of the morning. Donnavan Carter was the Argos' first-round draft pick in the 2000 draft. He played eight seasons in the league before entering the coaching ranks. He's about to enter his first season as the Defensive Coordinator for the OUA's Windsor Lancers after leaving a similar position with the University of Toronto Blues.