Higgins cleans slate

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:12 AM ET

By most accounts, choosing Laval's Miguel Robede first overall in yesterday's CFL draft was a prudent decision by the Stampeders.

He's an exceptionally quick and tenacious defensive lineman, worthy of one day earning a starting role in Calgary.

In the words of head coach Tom Higgins, his "motor's always running," which might not be great for fuel economy but makes Robede a player with whom coaches fall in love.

The 23-year-old's dogged pass rush necessitated his double-teaming last season to prevent him from tearing through offensive lines while enjoying a winning program with Laval, back-to-back Vanier Cup champions.

That Robede was thrown out of the University of Miami in 2002 for "violating team policy" is troubling but apparently not for the Stamps.

"It's well documented and it's of no concern to us," Higgins said after making Robede the No. 1 pick overall. "We addressed it with him, we had a talk and we think it's one of those things that's gone, past, and he needs to move forward. It would be a shame he even has to address or worry about what happened in the past. He's put that behind him and we don't anticipate ever having any challenges."

While Higgins acknowledges the world is aware of Robede's indiscretions, the details are far more sketchy.

Claims by CFL sources yesterday varied from reports Robede committed a serious violation in Miami to merely wearing out his welcome in the Sunshine State, with tardiness and "campus pranks" involving alcohol. He was also suspended by Laval two years ago, although a source said Robede is "a special player" who has just taken his time maturing.

Robede yesterday acknowledged his past misdeeds while choosing not to clarify what abruptly ended his association with the Hurricanes, a team notorious for leniency toward off-field misconduct.

"I've got no comments on that," said Robede.

"I paid for my errors. Nobody knows what happened, so I'm not going to tell anybody. They asked me and my coaches, the people around me, and I told them straight up what I wanted. I want to play pro football one day."

Also of concern is Robede, who has no representation, has yet to sign with the Stampeders and is pondering a return to school this fall, possibly with an eye on entering the NFL draft next year.

One additional year of college ball won't hurt the prospect, who is unlikely to win a starting job in Calgary anyway, but losing another first-round pick to the NFL would certainly sting the Stampeders. O-lineman Steve Morley jumped to the big-time last year after being selected first overall by the Red and White in 2003 and enjoying an outstanding rookie season.

With veteran Canucks Sheldon Napastuk and recently signed free agent Randy Chevrier ahead of Robede on the depth chart, he'd be looking at playing special teams this season and biding his time.

"I'm thinking about the issues I have with school and I'll talk to my parents," Robede said. "I hope to make a decision this week."

Higgins preferred yesterday to discuss Robede's many on-field talents, the upside being the Stamps can be patient as they already enjoy a strong Canadian presence along the d-line.

"It takes more than one player to block him and he was just a wrecking crew when he played on that level," Higgins said.

"It is going to be a jump and we expect that to be a smooth transition as we have Sheldon Napastuk and Randy Chevrier who play in that spot. You can't have enough good football players and we felt that was reason to go after him."

The inherent risk of the CFL draft is the payoff comes only if Robede arrives in Calgary and eventually lives up to his immense potential, making everyone forget a troubled past.

It seems Higgins already has.


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