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Scianitti: Hurst trying to impress Argos after a tough year

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Matthew Scianitti
5/31/2013 6:03:36 PM
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OAKVILLE, Ont. - The boy is fidgety. He talks about running and bends over like he's anticipating the starter's gun - his carefully sculpted arms tighten as he sways from foot to foot. And he writhes his hands like a football is about to fall into his grasp.

The boy cannot stand still. Quincy Hurst is a 5-foot-8, 170-pound bullet squirming in the chamber. He isn't anxious, the 24-year-old is just standing on the 40-yard-line of an Oakville high school football field, and when he's on a field he's meant to move. It's neuromuscular - the wonders of muscle memory. Pull the trigger and watch this kid fly.

"Just even talking about it, I love it," he says with a wide smile.

The second day of Toronto Argonauts rookie camp is over. Hurst is last on the field, talking about his chances of cracking the roster. Ricky Ray's job is guaranteed, says head coach Scott Milanovich after the quarterback it's all up for grabs.

"Personally, I feel like I can take full advantage (of the opportunity) and I fully intend on making the team," Hurst says.

But he's not a rookie, not really. Last summer, few could catch Toronto's 28th pick in the fourth round of the 2012 Canadian draft. "It was hard for even our best defenders to get a jam on him," Milanovich says. "When you can get a release, and you've got speed, it is tough to cover you."

And Hurst ran completely into everything; he caught passes and returned kicks in Toronto's final preseason game of 2012 against Montreal. He even hardened himself on special teams, and erupted into a crush of Argos and Alouettes, and he tore his right posterior cruciate ligament.

"I ended up playing the rest of the game and felt a little discomfort," he says, twitching less. "I got checked out after the game, still didn't feel too bad and after the bus ride home it stiffened up on me pretty good.

"June 19 I got my brace, and I got out of it September 28. I want to say, 13 weeks. I'm not a very big guy so speed is all I got really."

It was 14 weeks. No surgery, just deathly slow movements while wearing a brace that made his leg as stiff and dull as a plank of wood. He could barely sit in a car, and showering was terrible, and thank goodness that one woman was nice enough to let him switch seats on the plane that one time, so he could sit upfront and stretch his leg.

"It was tough," Hurst says, laughing nervously. He stops moving. "Don't remind me."

No, this is important, because the fidgety kid learned so much about himself while in a motionless state.

"The thing I was telling him was, 'It is hard, when you're not playing, you've got to pay attention, and watch your spot so when that opportunity comes you're ready,'" Milanovich says, "'Don't make this a wasted season, let's get something out of it mentally.'"

And so he started his slow march along the sidelines of the Argos' practice field in Mississauga, Ont. For a time Ken-Yon Rambo and rookie Julian Feoli-Gudino joined him, but he was mostly alone, dressed in an oversized blue shirt and shorts. The kid was far away.

Eventually he moved quicker and quicker, from end to end. "I see you No. 2!" Hurst would shout whenever Chad Owens caught the ball. "Separate 81, separate!" he called out to Jason Barnes, because he had memorized where all the pieces on the field needed to be. When Ray would throw the ball, several feet away Hurst sometimes extended his hands, like the pass was falling to him.

"I took home a lot of our [playbook] throughout the year, just to keep my mind fresh. Just stayed in it. It sounds like a complicated offence but once you get your head around it, it is pretty decent to pick up," he says.

"I would catch myself at home [Coquitlam, British Columbia] at night looking over old [plays] just trying to stay fresh."

But don't call this a second chance, or a fresh start; this is the climb out of the first valley in a professional career, and the kid believes he has prevailed.

"Being on the sideline, watching everyone do what you love to do is…it is beyond words have tough it is," Hurst says. And then, he twitches a little bit again.

He will receive a 100th Grey Cup ring, bejeweled with his name on it; but will he look at his ring and think, "I earned this, but…"

"Absolutely," he says. "I was part of the team, but when you're hurt and when you're not playing, you don't really feel like you're contributing.

"The coaches tell you you're doing your part in practice, giving the starters their work and giving them a good look, but you still don't really feel like you've earned it. Not resentment. I'm absolutely proud of the accomplishment, and I'm happy to be here, happy about the situation that happened, outside of the injury."

Now the boy has his legs again, and now he will contribute. "It's motivating I'd say, very motivating."

But the coach thought Hurst was poor on the first day of 2013's camp. He was too slow, and Milanovich playfully reproached him: "'I didn't see you get jammed once the entire year last year."

So on the second day, Hurst was matched up against… well, it doesn't matter who. It could have been Darrelle Revis. Ricky Ray threw the ball to the right corner, and no matter how fast or how far he had to move, the ball belonged to Quincy Hurst. Any ball from Ricky Ray is like catching a bag of money in your hands.

"It's so soft and beautiful," Hurst says smiling.

"I told [Hurst] that he was going to have a great opportunity when this training camp started," Milanovich says. "He showed us enough last year to open our eyes."

"It's natural," Hurst says, still twitching, coiled and ready. Any moment he could burst. "I don't try to make the moment too big for myself."

Oh yes, the man can play; just pull the trigger.

Football (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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