Merci, Montreal

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:37 AM ET

The arrival of the Montreal Alouettes in Calgary this weekend will make a greater impression on Miguel Robede than the first time the team turned up on the scene 11 seasons ago.

Then 14, the Val d'Or, Que., athlete was more focused on hunting and fishing than a career in football when the Als franchise was resurrected in Montreal.

Robede admits at the time he felt no connection to the CFL, when the league's easternmost team resided in Ottawa.

When the former Baltimore Stallions relocated to Montreal in 1996, the CFL suddenly became an option for the young man more keen on packing a shotgun into the wilderness than strapping on shoulder pads and a helmet.

"I didn't play football," Robede, 25, recalls of growing up in the south-western region of La Belle Province.

"I was fishing or hunting. I started football pretty late."

Robede never touched a football until he was 16 after attending Bishop's College, a military school in Lennoxville, Que., near Sherbrooke.

"I didn't watch football or hockey either," said Robede, who was duck hunting on the day in April 2005 when the Stampeders selected him first overall.

"I got into football in military school to help strengthen me.

I played football and rugby there and that's where I learned."

Linemate Randy Chevrier, a Montreal native, said the return of the Alouettes after a nine-season hiatus sparked interest throughout the province.

"That ignited football in Quebec," said Chevrier, 30.

"Before that, there was (high school and college) football in Quebec but it wasn't a sport on the forefront. I grew up without a CFL team in my province and I grew up a hockey fan my whole life. I started around the time the Alouettes came back because I said, 'Hey, I can play that.'

"They brought in a lot of local guys to play for the Alouettes and then some good university programs sprung up at Laval, Montreal and Sherbrooke, which gave a lot of French kids an avenue.

"That attracted kids who might never have played football before."

Robede is a two-time Vanier Cup champ who stayed at Laval last year before arriving in Stamps camp this spring.

The 6-ft. 4-in., 295-pounder has dressed for seven of eight games this season but has been used sparingly by d-line coach Casey Creehan, who is still developing Robede's immense potential.

"He's right on the path we'd hoped he'd be on at this point and that is to get a little bit better fundamentally as the season goes along and get to the point where he can contribute in the game and eventually be a starter," Creehan said.

"If you watch his college tapes, he was able to get away with a lot of things.

"When we do team drills, nobody wants to go with him because he's just so strong. He was able to do some stuff at the university level that you just can't get away with here and he still reverts back to that sometimes.

"When he plays his technique, you say, 'OK, that's why we drafted him,' because you see the flashes."

While Robede's physical skills still need polishing, his grasp of English could also benefit from some one-on-one drills.

"Sometimes when they say something, I'll translate it to French and get confused," Robede said.


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