Stamps on fast track

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

If the Calgary Stampeders speedsters were to line up for a race, Markus Howell feels he would have an advantage.

However, the veteran CFL receiver would get a run for his money from former track stars Ken-Yon Rambo, J.R. Ruffin and Sadrick Williams.

"But all those other guys are American," said the Canadian receiver. "Remember Donovan Bailey and Ben Johnson, there's history on my side.

"I will have the weight of the country on my shoulders and I would deliver."

Howell feels good about his chances if the four speedsters were to run a 60- or 100-metre race.

But there is one sure bet Howell would make: If the four made a 4X100m relay team, they could wipe out any other group from the seven CFL teams.

The stiffest competition might come from the Toronto Argonauts, the Stamps' road opponent this Saturday (5 p.m., CBC). The Argos have more return specialists than any other team in Bashir Levingston, Keith Stokes and Arland Bruce.

But Howell likes his group's chances.

"There are a lot of fast teams out there but none with all the top-end guys we have," Howell said. "We're deceptively fast."

The rest of the league has found out how quick Howell and Ruffin can be over the past few weeks. The two combined for 237 return yards last week against the Argos, which includes a 25-yard punt return by Howell and a 81-yard kickoff return by Ruffin.

When Howell played at Texas Southern, the Winnipeg native was also on the track team, running the 100, 200 and the relay.

His best time in the 100 was 10.23 seconds, which was pretty close to the tops in Canada at the time. Yet his competitors for fastest Stampeder aren't the least bit scared of those numbers.

"That was a long time ago," said Ruffin. "He's not that fast anymore. I was running in track meets just weeks before I came to Calgary."

The rookie defensive back hasn't given up on future Olympic dreams. He is still in contact with the staff from Idaho, where Canadian track team member Angela Whyte is an assistant coach. Ruffin, who is also starting at halfback for the Stamps, has some NFL goals and is heading into the option year of his contract.

But he has to decide what he wants: Running back kickoffs or zipping around a track.

"It all depends on my contract situation for next year," Ruffin said. "If I can make the qualifying times, my old coaches will help me work towards it. I still want to give it a try."

There are several former track athletes on the team. Jermaine Chatman ran at the University of Arizona, Jeremaine Copeland used to hurdle, while Williams competed in the relay and long jump during his time at Kansas State.

Even Rambo was a track star in high school, giving it up when he went to college but he would like to compete in a decathlon against his teammates.

"My specialty was the hurdles. I can move pretty good," Rambo said. "I would be up there in all the categories but it would be a pretty awesome track meet."


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