Clements ready to take bite out of Lions

Aspiring dentist gets chance to show his stuff after Wilson sidelined with injury

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers linebacker Malik Clements wants to be a dentist when his playing days are over.

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers linebacker Malik Clements wants to be a dentist when his playing days are over.

For now, the 25-year-old from Virginia is more focused on knocking out teeth with big hits.

“Exactly. It’s crazy how that works,” Clements, who boasts a million-dollar smile himself, told the Free Press after Thursday’s closed practice at IG Field.

Nathan Denette / THE CANADIAN PRESS files With Winnipeg Blue Bombers linebacker Kyrie Wilson (above) on the six-game injured list after picking up an Achilles injury against the Argonauts, Malik Clements will get his chance to play.

Clements will likely have more of an opportunity to do some damage to the opposition’s Chiclets, starting Saturday night in Vancouver when the Bombers (4-0) take on the B.C. Lions (3-0), as the Blue and Gold’s starting weak-side linebacker, Kyrie Wilson, is done for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. Wilson, one of the unsung heroes of the defence, was playing like an all-star this season before leaving Monday’s 23-22 victory in Toronto after getting injured on a non-contact play.

“Kyrie is one of the most underrated players in this league. He’s special. He holds down that WILL spot very well. He’s one of the best in the league,” said defensive back Nick Taylor.

“We’re gonna miss him, but it’s a next-man-up mentality. Malik will step up, Les (Maruo), and the whole gang. We’re just gonna go out there and do the best that we can. But we’re gonna miss him. He’s big to our team. He stops a lot of plays that people don’t even recognize sometimes. It just sucks.”

The injury bug has hit the Bombers hard as their six-game injured list already features some notable names in safety Brandon Alexander, dimeback Mercy Maston, centre Michael Couture, receiver Nic Demski, quarterback Dakota Prukop, defensive back Noah Hallett, and linebacker Jesse Briggs.

“It’s pro football, right? It’s pro sport. But when you talk about the personal side, yeah, it stinks,” said head coach Mike O’Shea.

Clements made 11 defensive tackles in seven games for the Edmonton Elks last season as a CFL newcomer. Injuries slowed Clements down last year as he battled a tweaked hamstring and strained a pectoral muscle. The Elks decided to move on from Clements, leading to the Bombers signing him to a deal in March. The University of Cincinnati product registered six defensive tackles and a sack in relief of Wilson on Monday.

“He can tackle. He knows the game and he’s fit in very well with our guys,” O’Shea said.

“It’s all good. There’s nothing not to like. He plays a physical brand of football, too. He likes to stick his nose in there and get dirty which is good as well.”

It looked like Clements, who took a certified dental-assistant program in high school, was headed towards life after football after his lone season in Edmonton. He wasn’t ready to accept that, so he sent his highlight tape to Winnipeg’s assistant general manager and director of U.S. scouting, Danny McManus. McManus and Co. decided to give Clements a shot and now he has a chance to prove they made the right call.

“Football’s my first love, man. And obviously, I’m still kinda young. I can go back to school anytime,” Clements said.

“I just wanted to keep chasing the dream and the hunger was still there. I’m the type of person that doesn’t give up. I keep scratching and clawing for my dreams.”

Wilson, who’s in his fifth year with the team, has wasted no time in helping Clements get ready to fill his shoes.

“Kyrie’s been a big help, even after he got injured… And seeing the way he practises, he practises with a motor,” said Clements. “As a young guy coming up in the CFL, that’s something you look up to, for sure.”

CONTROVERSIAL PLAY VS. ARGOS

Demerio Houston thought he hauled in the first interception of his career.

In the third quarter, Argos pivot McLeod Bethel-Thompson underthrew a deep pass to receiver Brandon Banks and Houston jumped up and caught it, or so it appeared, at the goal line. But as he came down to the ground, Houston didn’t maintain full possession and Banks ripped the ball away. The end result was a touchdown for Toronto.

“I felt like I was down and it was an interception, but the referees thought otherwise. Coach always tells me ‘Don’t leave it in the referee’s hands. Make your play.’ I thought I did that. I thought it would be a different call and a different outcome, but he made a good play,” Houston said.

After getting a chance to study it, O’Shea had no issue with the call.

“It took about three seconds looking at our replay here in the stadium. There with the TV replays, it’s hard to see. With the camera angles we get, it was pretty clear right away that it was a touchdown. So, great job by the command centre,” said O’Shea.

TAYLOR PUTTING UP NUMBERS

Seven-year vet Nick Taylor had two interceptions in his first 51 regular season games in the CFL. This season, the defensive back has three in four games, putting him in a three-way tie for first place in the CFL.

“This year it seems to be going my way,” Taylor said Thursday. “I worked hard all offseason doing a lot of receiver work. When the opportunity comes, I just try to make them. The ball has come my way before. I just didn’t find a way to finish. The emphasis this year was to find a way to finish by any means necessary.”

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
Reporter

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...

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