PATIENCE, perseverance and versatility may win the day for defensive back Don Unamba.
The 25-year-old pro rookie from Arlington, Texas is making a spirited bid to land a job with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers after failing to crack the rosters of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams and Buffalo Bills in 2013.
"It was a great experience, especially coming from D-2 football, getting to play with high-calibre guys," Unamba said of last year’s brief stay with the Rams and his half a training camp with the Bills.
Fast forward to 2014. The Bombers, in need of help pretty much everywhere, liked what they saw from the former Southern Arkansas University Mulerider at a mini-camp in the Dallas area in the off-season and now he’s here at Investors Group Field, flying around the field and getting noticed.
"Big, physical, terrific athlete," said Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea. "Just a really good guy. When you talk to him, he’s polite, intelligent. There’s lots of things to like about him. On the field, he’s flying around and he makes plays and he always seems to be in the mix.
"He has adapted to the effort that’s required very, very easily. He’s a very talented football player and that’s probably the key point, and maybe the No. 1 compliment that I give, that he’s a football player.
"When you watch him play, I see football."
Pre-season games will tell more of a tale but what’s really to like so far about Unamba is that he can do more than one job. On Wednesday, the 6-1, 192-pounder was seen doing drills at middle linebacker, despite being listed as a defensive back.
"He’s all over the place," O’Shea said. "Having the ability to take in the playbook, understand what everybody around you is doing, and be able to switch positions and fly into different spots, that’s important and he’s done it without any problem.
"He’s got the football instincts to play a number of positions. I don’t think you’ll see him a nose guard this week but he strikes me as the type of football player that if you asked him to do something that was completely out of the box, that he would have, in the first part, no problem doing it and finding a way to get it done and the second part, he would have no qualms about doing it, he would just line up and do it.
"We have a lot of players like that, not just Don Unamba, who have opened their minds to whatever’s being asked of them and are willing to do whatever it takes."
When he wasn’t chosen in the NFL draft last season, Unamba signed with and stayed briefly with the Rams.
"(The draft) was a disappointment," he said. "I expected to go late in the draft but undrafted and coming from D-2, not that much of a disappointment. I know I had to play with a chip on my shoulder and it was going to be hard, coming from a lower level.
"I learned a lot, made plays, had fun. As with any pro team, you’ve got the numbers thing so I fell out of the mix."
He stayed in shape in the fall and winter and waiting for the next opportunity.
Which is now, in a slightly different game — giving a yard at the line of scrimmage, three downs and motion.
"I kind of got my first taste of the whole motion thing in the workouts and I’ve been running around with guys who have been doing it for a while so I got adjusted pretty fast," Unamba said, smiling. "I’m just having fun with. It’s fun. More to read. I think it’s a DB-receiver league so I love it."
As for moving around within the defence, Unamba said just the right thing on Wednesday, that he’ll do whatever, wherever, in order to make the team.
"I’m willing to play wherever they put me," he said. "If they want me in there, I’ll do whatever it takes to make the team and have fun with it."
And while O’Shea was raving about the newcomer, Unamba was also expressing his approval of the new Bombers coach’s style, in particular that it’s the head coach who checks the players in for breakfast each morning.
"A player’s coach," Unamba said. "He’s interacting with us. He’s not off to the side. He’s in drills."