VANCOUVER - Angus Reid has handed the ball to enough quarterbacks to know when his man has it.
You know the ‘it.’
The physical tools are there with most players once they reach the CFL, but there is something that separates a few from the rest.
Reid sees it in Travis Lulay, who is in his first full season starting for the B.C. Lions.
“He had the ability to gain your confidence,” said Reid, the 11-year centre for the Lions. “Even from a look in his eye in the huddle.
“When he looks at you, when he says things and have that tone of voice … All those things make you look back and say, ‘I trust this guy. I’m going to follow this guy. Whatever happens, he’s doing whatever he can to win this game for us.’
“I see that in him. That’s something you can’t coach. He’s one of those guys. I liken him to Dave Dickenson when you talk about huddle presence.”
A year ago at this time, the Lions struggled to start the season, dropping to 1-7 before Lulay took over and led them back into the playoff hunt.
Over the course of a year, the Lions have changed many faces, brought in new players at a few positions, but the biggest change is at pivot.
The mercurial Casey Printers is gone, and this is Lulay’s team now.
Although the Lions are 0-1 heading into Friday’s meeting with the Calgary Stampeders (0-1), there doesn’t seem to be the same gloom around the franchise’s future.
Certainly, the unfounded talk of Wally Buono’s better coaching days being behind him are long gone. That stuff erupted during the 1-7 start.
Even with Buono taking blame for a coaching decision in last week’s 30-26 loss to the Montreal Alouettes, there is no sense this team will be doormats this season.
“It’s the wrong mentality to have,” Lulay said. “It’s wrong to have those thoughts. This is a new year and new team. But we’re 0-1, and we need to get a win this week.”
During the off-season, the Lions bolstered their team on both sides of the ball.
It used to be rare for Buono to dip into the CFL free-agency market, but that’s just what he did in signing defensive tackle Eric Taylor and left tackle Ben Archibald.
The Lions lost key players as returner Yonus Davis ran afoul of the law and Mannie Arceneaux went to the NFL.
One thing Roy Shivers does as a player personnel director is find talent at the skill positions. The Lions have interesting newcomers in returner Tim Brown and receivers Dobson Collins and Nick Moore.
The Stamps didn’t offer Archibald a contract due to a tight salary cap (they didn’t want to insult him with a low-ball deal), and the Lions grabbed the reigning CFL most outstanding lineman. His transition has gone smooth, and now the Stamps are the ones struggling at offensive line.
“From a player’s standpoint, I know you don’t find two-time outstanding linemen walking around on the street every day,” said Stamps running back Joffrey Reynolds.
“We lost a valuable player.”
With a stronger group up front, Lulay is being given a good chance to succeed. The 27-year-old was handed the ball at the start of June, and it was his job to lose.
“It was a different approach through training camp,” Lulay said. “Going through what we went through last year, and I was the guy playing at the end of the year when we were playing better football, gave the team faith in me being the guy.
“It’s a good feeling to have. I know my teammates have my back. They know I will play hard for them, so it’s a good relationship.”