November 14, 2012
Lions' Lulay has earned 'clutch' tag
By HOSEA CHEUNG, QMI Agency
In sports, the label "clutch" is held in high regard. With it comes a notion of success, respect and an ability to step up in the most critical of situations.
Despite having just three CFL playoff starts under his belt, B.C. Lions quarterback Travis Lulay has already earned that flattering title after being voted the best clutch performer in a TSN player poll a couple weeks ago.
But even though the big-game pivot appreciates the sentiment from his peers, he knows it'll mean nothing if he fails to perform Sunday when leading his club into its most important game of the season.
"Just because I've played well in the past in a pressured situation doesn't mean anything," Lulay said Wednesday at BC Place, the venue for the West final against the Calgary Stampeders. "I'm humbled but I understand what it took to play well and what it took to win those football games. That's the approach.
"It's not all natural. It's something I've tried to be conscious of, to be in that frame of mind to focus on one play at a time and not get too high and not get too low."
In Lulay's three playoff games -- one in 2010 and two in 2011, including the Grey Cup -- he has been in on eight touchdowns, throwing for six and rushing for another two. He also passed for a combined 1,080 yards.
Last season, in his first full year as the starter, he was instrumental in the team's championship run, picking up the Most Outstanding Player honour in the process.
The 29-year-old's knack for coming up big isn't just limited to the CFL. Back in college, he led Montana State to three Big Sky Conference titles -- all of which were won in the final game of the season -- and two NCAA Division I-AA playoff appearances.
That history of winning in key moments doesn't surprise his Lions teammates at all.
"He puts the time in, he's always one of the last guys to leave, and he's a bit of a perfectionist," running back Andrew Harris said. "That definitely shows on the field when you put in that kind of work off the field.
"Every good team has good leaders and guys who are humble and are clutch like that. That's exactly what Travis is, he just plays with so much poise. It's important when you're in tough situations."
Added slotback Geroy Simon: "When the big moment comes, you take advantage of it "¦ and you can still perform in high pressure moments. He's done that over a number of games and opportunities."
Lulay will be called to do so again against a tough Stamps side, whom he has thrown five touchdowns against in two games this season. However, the concern will be less on whether he can put together yet another clutch performance, but rather on his health.
Hindered by a sore right shoulder, Lulay has played just one quarter in the Lions last three games and missed two straight, including the most recent meeting against Calgary. He started the final regular season game against Saskatchewan but left after the first quarter for cautionary reasons.
Expected to start this weekend, Lulay is adamant he's feeling better. And he's not worried about any rust or ill-lingering effects when facing Calgary.
"I'm not saying that I'm just some superstar that doesn't need to practice and can just step out onto the field," he said. "But I do feel I've gotten good reps in practice and I felt really comfortable during the game (against the Roughriders).
"That gave me a lot of confidence that I'm still going to be able to play, and play at the level my teammates need me to play at to have a chance to win this game."
LIONS ADD DEPTH
Help, or rather depth, is on the way for the B.C. Lions' ailing offensive line.
The club officially added lineman Matt Norman to the 46-man roster Wednesday, giving the team some insurance when it comes to protecting the quarterback.
The 24-year-old was drafted 22nd overall in the 2012 CFL draft but left the Lions during the regular season to pursue a teaching degree at the University of Western Ontario.
"I wasn't expecting it," Norman said about getting the call to re-join the Lions. "Ever since I was young I've been following the CFL so to actually be in a western final game is beyond words. I'm excited."
The native of Chateauguay, Que., said fitness shouldn't be an issue since he's been working out and has kept in the football frame of mind by coaching. As for his role Sunday, he's not sure, although he'll most likely serve as a backup.
The Lions could use the rookie if guards Dean Valli (knee) and Jon Hameister-Ries (herniated disc) aren't healthy enough to face the Calgary Stampeders.
"That's been their trademark of the season, guys being able to step in and play in a high level," quarterback Travis Lulay said of his O-line "We have tons of faith in these guys to step in and do well."