Clap for unknown holder

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

Sure, there are tougher jobs than crouching down on one knee for about 1.3 seconds, about three times a week.

But when Brett Ralph first held for a field-goal kicker, he was completely backwards. It's much easier with proper training.

"I did it in high school but I had the wrong knee and was catching with the wrong hand," said the Calgary Stampeders receiver and placekicker Sandro DeAngelis' extra set of hands.

"I didn't pay attention to it too much before this year when I've been doing it. I've focused on kickers and holders while watching games.

"My parents have been doing the same thing and telling me about what they see."

At least someone out there is paying attention, although toiling in anonymity is much preferable over the alternative, which Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Jason Johnson is experiencing right now.

Johnson bobbled the hold last week and cost the Esks a chance at a victory against the B.C. Lions.

The Stamps haven't had any problems with their holder because the second-year Canadian is embracing the job.

Every morning before practice, long-snapper Randy Chevrier, one of the steadiest in the CFL, sends Ralph bad snap after bad snap to test the holder's hands.

No matter how awful the ball flies, Ralph cooley slams it onto the tee. The 24-year-old is seemingly never rattled, which may be a result of his upbringing as opposed to skill.

Ralph is a Mormon who can best be described as humble, quiet and respectful. Because holders don't often get much credit for doing their job -- aside from thank-yous courtesy of the kicker -- Ralph is perfect for the role.

"He's a very calm guy," Chevrier said. "He has a lot of heart, don't get my wrong. He won't jump and dance with the receivers in the endzone and won't cuss anybody out but he comes and does his job. He knows what he has to do."

DeAngelis started working part-time with Ralph when both were rookies in 2005 but receiver Mike Juhasz did the holding in games last year.

Juhasz did a great job for DeAngelis last season, helping the kicker to an all-star season, so Ralph had to reach that same level at the start of this campaign.

Now the sophomore kicker who tops the CFL in scoring has complete trust in the two other parts of his team.

DeAngelis knows if Chevrier is slightly off, Ralph can quickly correct the problem.

In the Stamps' big win over Montreal, when DeAngelis kicked field goals of 52 and 53 in the final minute to beat the Alouettes, Ralph did a great job grabbing one slightly low snap.

"For a 52-yarder, if it's slightly off, it probably won't make it," DeAngelis said.

"He did an amazing job. I saw the up-close shot of it and I didn't realize how off it was.

"It seemed perfect. It's such a bang-bang operation. If there is a bobble, you have to trust at the instant you kick, it will be there."

DeAngelis is impressed with Ralph's soft hands, which are in plain view every day on passes from quarterback Henry Burris.

"You see some of the grabs in practice, what is it to make a seven-and-a-half yard grab from Randy with the bullets he takes from Hank? It's a very thankless job and if you put in the work, you will get to be pretty good at it."

Nerves seem to be the downfall of most players who try to become holders but Ralph has the jitters under control.

"If you asked me at the start of the year, I pictured being in the Grey Cup with the game on the line and it's minus-20 and you can't feel your hands," Ralph said.

"When you get out there, it's amazing how the nerves kind of leave you. It's the same in the first quarter as it is in the fourth.

"It's not as nerve-racking as I thought it would be. If I didn't have a snapper as good as Randy, then I might be more nervous."


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