You're only as good as your Canadian talent.
In the CFL that axiom rings true more often than not. It's imperative that teams maximize every opportunity to acquire quality non-imports and if they can find someone who can start at a non-traditional Canadian position he's worth his weight in gold. The Argos are hoping two relatively low-profile players can increase their value this year.
David Lee's progression has been nothing short of phenomenal. His name wasn't called in the 2012 CFL Draft and it didn't exactly cause a lot of excitement when the Western product signed as a free agent in late May. By the end of the season Lee's play had made Ricky Foley expendable, but in the meantime the student had absorbed ample information from the mentor.
"I really learned that even though you're a Canadian, even though you may not have as many years of experience, if you're athletic, if you're dedicated and you work hard you can get a chance to succeed".
Lee worked his way onto the roster and eventually found himself getting more and more game action as the season wore on. By the end of the year he found himself playing in the Grey Cup game and contributing as more than just a guy with non-import status. That progression isn't lost on Head Coach Scott Milanovich.
"David did a great job last year. He's one of those guys who's always in the right place, always overachieving".
Being positionally sound is a tremendous advantage for a young player trying to make an impact. Lee devoured the playbook of Defensive Coordinator Chris Jones and took to it like a bear to honey.
"Chris' system is actually pretty intuitive. He teaches the whole system so you learn everything, so on the fly I can drop off and do someone else's responsibility. This has actually been one of the systems that's been easier for me because it's very logical".
Logic would dictate that another relative newcomer would eventually be able to contribute to the Argos. Joel Reinders is a mountain of a man who is only entering his fifth season of competitive football. He enrolled at the University of Waterloo as a basketball player, but converted to football, a sport he had never played before, in 2008.
Reinders went from Waterloo to the NFL. After trying his hand at four-down football Reinders headed north and joined the Argos last August. He spent most of the season on the practice roster before getting a chance to play in the final regular-season game. He also would dress for Toronto's three playoff games. At 6'8", 315 pounds the Oakville native is imposing off the field, but now wants to make that same impact between the lines.
"I've got a little more experience with the half season last year so I know the playbook."
Now it's up to the coaching staff to determine not only when, but where Reinders fits into the lineup, a question Milanovich and company are doing their best to resolve.
"We're still trying to figure out where Joel is going to fit best, whether it's guard or tackle. He made a good transition last year and he played pretty well in week 18. I'm looking forward to seeing him play (in next week's pre-season game in Winnipeg) because he's going to get a lot of playing time".
Reinders' versatility will help him over the course of his career, but learning multiple positions didn't come easily.
"I was originally more comfortable at tackle because that's all I had played" Reinders told TSN.ca. "I was very uncomfortable at guard to start, but I played a lot inside last year, essentially in the playoffs and Grey Cup, but right now I've adapted to all three spots; tight end, guard and tackle".
The 25-year-old will be hard to keep off the roster if he performs well in the club's two pre-season games.
Notes: Milanovich gave his players a bit of a break on Wednesday. After three consecutive two-a-days he had just one on-field session. "The fourth day of two-a-days can be tough and they've been working hard so we're going to try to bring their legs back a little". The Argos had a similar camp schedule a year ago. It also helped that the pace of the first six practices was great, but Milanovich joked "If the tempo changes this will never happen again"...Centre Jeff Keeping was back Wednesday after missing two days with a minor leg injury...The head coach said he was most happy with "the lack of busts" by the offence so far. He said a lot of things need work. "We're getting into more difficult blitzes and how we're going to protect those"...Among those in attendance today was long-time kicker Noel Prefontaine, who was not re-signed by the Argos after the Grey Cup win...The team's annual Double Blue Game will be held at their Erindale facility this Saturday at 1:30pm. Admission is free.