Doggone obscurity

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

Brett Ralph was walking out of McMahon Stadium after another solid performance when he received a dose of his severe anonymity.

The Calgary Stampeders receiver met his wife and 23-month-old son Houston outside the front doors when two paramedics walked by.

One of them said to the other, 'Hey, that little guy has a Ralph the Dog jersey on. Cool.'

That typifies Brett Ralph's role with the Stamps. He does his job well but still isn't the most popular Ralph in the building most nights.

"My sister was with us and laughed because it was a low blow to me," said the 25-year-old receiver. "I didn't say anything back, but my sister had to go tell my whole family."

That scenario will almost certainly not last, no offence to the Stamps' beloved mascot. No receiver on the Calgary roster has been more consistent this season than Ralph, who has quietly caught 12 passes for 211 yards in five games.

Down the stretch last week when the Stamps were trying to come back against the B.C. Lions, Ralph was open several times and had the ball thrown his way on three of them. He would have had his first touchdown this season, but it was called back on a penalty.

Of all the negative talk coming out of the game, one of positives was Ralph, but it's just not in the Raymond, Alta., product's nature to toot his own horn.

"You never want anything negative said about you, but when you're striving to talk about positives, there are things you can do better," Ralph said.

Already this season, Ralph has surpassed his numbers from last season in which he became a spare part in the Stampeders offence. Coming off a rookie season in which he had 609 yards receiving, Ralph got lost in the shuffle of Steve Buratto's offensive scheme in 2006.

So, the 5-ft.-10 receiver went home for the off-season determined to bulk up and come back refocused.

The Stamps signed Canadian free agent Ryan Thelwell to start and become a ratio changer on offence.

Yet, it is Ralph who has emerged as the player the Stamps couldn't take off the field, which has relegated Thelwell to a backup role.

Quarterback Henry Burris has started to show more confidence in Ralph, especially when plays break down.

"It's every day in practice, from the start of training camp until Week 19 and into the playoffs," Ralph said about gaining a QB's trust.

"Having played quarterback in the past, I know how Hank feels. There are situations when you think you need to get a ball in someone's hands and other times you may think a guy who hasn't made a big catch before and you won't go his way."

Ralph grew up in an athletic factory in Raymond and was a star on the baseball diamond as well as the football field. He's also about a five-handicap golfer when he finds the time to play. As QB of the high school football team, Ralph won two Tier I provincial titles, beating schools with populations five times the size.

After graduating, he spent a year at the University of Wyoming before transferring to the University of Alberta, where he caught of the eye of Stamps coach Tom Higgins, who made him a sixth-round draft pick in 2005.

"He's come into his own this year as far as his level of play," Higgins said. "He's professional at all times, and the consistency in which he plays is a comfort for a quarterback and the head coach."

Since coming into the league after his brother Brock, who plays in Hamilton, the comparisons are natural.

Although Brock has a size and speed advantage, Stamps receiver Nik Lewis says it doesn't matter.

"Brett is a better overall player," Lewis said. "He's really played well this year, and if you ask anyone in this receiving corps, we believe he's better than his brother by far."

So maybe if enough people start talking about Brett, he may become the most popular Ralph in the CFL.


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