Winter pain pays off

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:34 AM ET

Moments after the Calgary Stampeders bowed out in the West semifinal last November, Kyler Jukes sat crying in the locker-room.

Although he had yet to play a down for the CFL club, the Regina product couldn't help but get choked up for his teammates.

The offensive lineman spent all 18 games of 2005 on the practice roster and vows to be part of celebrations and disappointments this season.

"It was frustrating not being able to play," said the 27-year-old. "I've always committed myself to everything I've done.

"I was frustrated because I'm a very emotional player. It hurt a lot. It made me work really hard in the off-season to get into the lineup this year as a backup at least, no matter what the position."

Jukes stayed in Calgary this off-season to work with strength and conditioning coach Mark Kilam and he came to training camp with a goal of making the 46-man roster.

A key first step for him was getting an actual locker, which was purposely put next to veteran right tackle Jeff Pilon.

Jukes savours each chance he can hang out with the veterans and it helped spending workout time at National Sports Development with Pilon, guard Taylor Robertson and several other players.

"In my experience, it's always worked better when we come together in the off-season as a team," Jukes said. "Offensive line is a position where you have to be in synch with each other. If you're not in synch, it just doesn't work."

By all accounts, the starting five is set but quite a few backup spots are up for grabs because the Stamps have committed to developing Canadian lineman.

With Jamie Crysdale retiring, Godfrey Ellis has been thrown in as the starting centre, so Jukes has worked at snapping to be ready in a moment's notice, in case Ellis doesn't duplicate Crysdale's 210-game iron man streak.

During the team's mock game yesterday, Jukes took his fair share of snaps and was happy to avoid any major mistakes. He also took a few plays at tackle and felt comfortable there, too.


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