Can’t sink this Boatman

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

He’s the lone Boatman on the Boatmen, an offensive tackle who has been forced to tackle some of life’s more demanding hurdles.

But through it all, Shannon Boatman has persevered, refusing to wallow in self-pity, embracing the challenges associated with diabetes and now basking in his long-awaited moment in the football sun.

Only in the CFL, which is as much a league of ratio juggling and limited rosters as it is about playmakers, do you find a player as good as Boatman who could just as quickly get relegated to the non-active list after yielding not a single sack in his debut in three-down football.

With the B.C. Lions paying a visit this Friday, Boatman will line up at right tackle for the second straight week, protecting quarterback Cleo Lemon’s front side and being a presence on an Argos offensive line that has looked good, both in its pass protection and run blocking.

In time, maybe Boatman, an import, will be yet another victim of the CFL’s numbers game, but for now he’s enjoying the opportunity.

His story, though, reveals character and resiliency.

Boatman was a two-sport star in Beaumont, Tex., where he competed on the hardwood against Kendrick Perkins, a pillar on the Boston Celtics frontcourt.

Boatman was a can’t-miss football talent in a state known for its love of the pigskin until he was diagnosed with diabetes in junior college.

Boatman’s father was first diagnosed with the disease and later Boatman’s brother.

After making the necessary changes to his diet and becoming more familiar with the daily insulin injections and medication, a devastating shoulder injury threatened to curtail Boatman’s football future.

All of a sudden, the acclaim of playing at a football-rich program such as Florida State was of little consequence.

The Washington Redskins signed Boatman as an undrafted free agent in April of 2008, but they wouldn’t clear him to play medically and he was subsequently released.

A visit with a surgeon would follow, a full year of rehab later and finally a call from the Argos, who signed Boatman last off-season.

He didn’t play a single down in any regular season game, learned the nuances of line play with the added yard and then came the moment when Boatman filled in for Chris Van Zeyl, a non-import, against the Stamps last Wednesday.

“Given the long road I had to take to get this point, to be in this position, it was a great feeling,’’ Boatman said of his debut in Double Blue.

“First game, first professional game and I didn’t give up any sacks,’’ beamed Boatman. “I felt pretty excited, but I know there’s more work that needs to get done.

“You can watch on film, practise in game conditions, but it’s different when you get out there.”

The blessing in disguise that came with being a diabetic is that Boatman is a lot more conscious of his eating habits.

“Before I was diagnosed with diabetes, I weighed 354 pounds.’’ added Boatman. “I used to eat everything thrown my way.

“I now weigh 315 pounds and I feel great because I watch what I eat. I’m older now.

“I’m able to manage diabetes, even though I am dependent on insulin injections and I have to take pills to regulate my condition.”

Seeing up close his father, Anthony, deal with diabetes helped Boatman, who nonetheless was frightened when diagnosed.

“Watching my dad kind of prepared me for diabetes because I saw what he had to go through,” Boatman said. “I saw how consistently he monitored himself to make sure he stayed healthy. He had to make sure he stayed healthy to provide for us as a family.”

Health-wise, Boatman says he has never felt better.

Football-wise, it’s the techniques of playing in the CFL that require refinement, which can only be achieved by repetition and game experience.

“I like this game and I enjoy being an Argo,’’ he continued. “You have to be real patient playing the offensive line because I’ve been used to putting my hands up when you hear ‘hut.’

“It’s different in run blocks because that extra yard gives a defensive lineman added space to move around.

“I know one thing: I wouldn’t be able to play this game if I weighed close to 350 pounds.”


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