Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–15–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

You better take that back!

Ability to return kicks critical for new receivers

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There are moments when both Trevor Kennedy and Jameze Massey will admit everything seems all so new, all so foreign.

Now, truth be told, the plot line to their stories -- strangers in a strange land chasing a football dream -- is one that has been told and re-told at every Winnipeg Blue Bomber camp dating back to the days of leather helmets.

But this is also what makes the three-down game, and the Canadian Football League in particular, so appealing to the two receiver/kick return prospects trying to earn regular work. Both are small-school stars -- Kennedy from Mercyhurst, Massey hailing from Winston-Salem State -- passed over by the NFL.

And both will do anything within their powers to open eyes in Wednesday's preseason game against the Toronto Argonauts. After all, the doors of opportunity only swing open so many times in pro football.

"You know, for the vets Wednesday is probably not that big a game," said Massey after practice on Monday. "But for the rookies... it's probably the biggest game in my life. That's how I would say it: It's the biggest game of my life. I'm going to have to play a good game because Wednesday is evaluation time."

The Bombers have been tracking Massey throughout his college career and were particularly enamoured after he helped lead Winston-Salem to the NCAA Division II national championship -- a game in which he pulled in nine passes for 187 yards and a touchdown in a losing cause.

Ditto for Kennedy, a finalist for the Harlon Hill trophy in 2011 as Division II's most outstanding player, who did get a look-see from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at a mini-camp before suffering an injury. He was signed by the Bombers after a free-agent camp in Atlanta this off-season. Immediately afterward, his friends and family went into scramble mode trying to find out as much as possible about Winnipeg and the CFL.

"I'm not going to lie... some people, I tell them I'm going to play football in Canada and they thought I meant soccer," said Kennedy. "I'm like, 'It's professional football. It's just as good as the NFL, but it's its own game. The Grey Cup has a tradition of 100 years.'

"Getting in and learning about the CFL game... it's a lot different from what I've been used to down in the States. It's a little faster pace than what I expected.

"It's been fun. I've had a great time and I feel like I'm starting to come into my own."

Massey has also been a quick study -- although he did do some advance prep work to ready himself for a CFL camp and the game.

"I started You-Tubing guys right away," said Massey. "(Hamilton's) Chris Williams, I saw (Demond) Washington take a couple back here and I watched that little midget guy (Tim Brown) in B.C. (for the record Massey is 5-8)). They're all good.

"It's like you're out there every other down as a returner. You're busy and I like that. Chris Williams was one cut and then go and that's what you have to have in this league. You can't be back there dancing. I'll be ready."

Washington, who had two punt-return touchdowns and finished second in kickoff-return yardage last season but also struggled mightily at times, and Jovon Johnson, handled most of the kick-return chores in 2012. But it's also no secret that the club would like to keep Johnson fresh for his defensive responsibilities and find a consistent TD-threat as a return man.

Kennedy and Massey are the fresh-faced candidates.

"I can't wait," said Kennedy. "Football is football and if somebody is giving you a shot to play, you've got to take it if you really love the game. This is my shot."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 11, 2013 C3

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