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Stampeders' offensive linemen say they need no attention or accolades

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TORONTO - Kevin Glenn, Drew Tate and Jon Cornish won accolades and attention all season.

Their offensive linemen? They got a free dinner.

The Calgary Stampeders O-line has been one of the most potent in the Canadian Football League this season, helping propel the team to Sunday's 100th Grey Cup game versus the Toronto Argonauts.

But if asked which player they knew best: Glenn or Edwin Harrison II, Cornish or Obby Khan, there's no question how fans would answer.

"To us as offensive linemen, (the lack of attention) really doesn't matter," Harrison said Friday at Rogers Centre — where not surprisingly Glenn and Cornish held court with a dozen or so reporters apiece.

Harrison and Khan? One or two reporters each.

"Trust me, I would really love to win offensive lineman of the year, I would love to be an all-star, but the men in that locker-room respect us as a unit, them guys love us," Harrison said. "Keon (Raymond, a defensive back) tells us every day 'We are here because of you all, and we cannot do this without you all.' I think that's something that cannot be replaced.

"When you work hard with another man every day and they know that you are carrying this football team, it really doesn't matter what anyone else thinks."

Thanks largely to the offensive line, the Stampeders finished tied with Montreal for most TDs scored (51) and second overall in rushing (116 yards per game) and scoring (29.7 points per game).

Quarterbacks Glenn and Tate took the offensive line out for dinner to thank them.

"My father was in town in Calgary when they did, we had a great time," Harrison said. "Those guys really work together and they really want to make each other better. Those are two really good men, they are true professionals. So if you can block for two guys like that, it really doesn't matter, because we trust both of them."

Cornish had a career season, finishing second to Toronto's Chad Owens in voting for the CFL's outstanding player award. But Cornish, a native of New Westminster, B.C., was named the league's top Canadian after becoming the first Canuck to lead the CFL in rushing since Ottawa's Orville Lee did it in 1988.

Cornish's 1,457 yards also broke Norm Kwong's 56-year-old record for most rushing yards in a season by a Canadian.

"Their progress from the beginning of the season to now has been quite remarkable," Cornish said of the men who clear a path for him to run. "It's really quite something to be able to see people really develop as athletes and as men. We started off with a pretty young offensive line and now I would go to war with every single one of those guys. They are all battle tested.

"I really hope I get to play behind them for a long time."

Cornish wasn't so kind with his comments in July when he was held to minus-1 yard rushing in a loss to the B.C. Lions. He called out the offensive line in frustration after the game.

But the O-line has been a work in progress since the season opened with, Harrison estimates, 10 different players moving in and out of the lineup.

In last Sunday's West division win over the B.C. Lions, Calgary's starting offensive line was: Harrison, J'Micheal Deane, Jon Gott, Dimitri Tsoumpas and Stanley Bryant.

The players credit offensive line coach Mike Gibson as the glue that has kept the line a strong unit, no matter who was playing.

"He has got this line to buy into: it really doesn't matter what your individual accomplishments are, we are a unit," Harrison said. "I know we're a football team, but as we go, so this team goes."

Khan admitted it can be a thankless job.

"But it's what we do, we love it," said the 32-year-old. "When you first sign up for the offensive line, it's because you're a short, fat kid.

"True story, that's what happened to me."

Khan told the story of how he was cut from the drama team and his sister suggested he tried out for football "because you're a short fat big kid," he said, laughing.

He made the high school team in Grade 9 as a defensive lineman.

"But the coach said, 'You're a short, fat kid, let's move you to the offensive line.' And the rest is history."

Harrison said he had a similar "short fat kid" introduction to football.

"I've been on the line on my whole life, never touched a football. ... maybe a bit in high school," Harrison said. "It's been the line since Day 1, I think it's in my blood, obviously with my grandfather Calvin Jones (a former Winnipeg Blue Bomber offensive lineman)."

Khan and Harrison said over the years, they learned the job was more about the brotherhood and camaraderie than anything.

"It's the tightest group on the field, we're all best friends, we're going to be friends until we die," Khan said. "That's the brotherhood that you get, and we don't need no awards or no name recognition for that."

Glenn, who will be under centre Sunday with Tate out with an arm injury, said it's not right that the offensive linemen get overlooked.

"I believe that's where championships are won. They are won up front," Glenn said. "We (he and Cornish) can't do the things we do without their help and them blocking. If we can't do what we are supposed to do the receivers don't get the ball. I think everything starts and ends with those guys."

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