Armstrong admires vet's ethic

SCOTT FISHER

, Last Updated: 7:13 AM ET

Offensive lineman Derek Armstrong has done his best to emulate Jay McNeil all season.

But the veteran's post-practice cuisine? That's a little fishy, the youngster says.

McNeil, a 14-year CFL veteran who has mentored Armstrong this season, likes to crack open a can of tuna after a workout ... and dig in.

No mayo, no spices, no nothing.

No thanks, says Armstrong.

"I ate the tuna for a while, but that's his deal," the 26-year-old says.

"I'd rather just drink a protein shake."

McNeil, who will retire after Calgary's next loss -- or Grey Cup victory -- has left his Stamp, so to speak, on Armstrong.

The pair worked out together in the off-season when Armstrong said he got a lesson on work ethic.

He'd show up at the gym and McNeil would already be there.

The next day, he'd come in even earlier and find his tutor waiting.

"I'd try to beat him there and I'd show up at 5:15 a.m. But he'd be there," the 6-ft.-3, 295-pounder says.

"Every morning, he was there at 5 a.m. or even earlier.

"It was a great example for me to see how hard you actually have to work to make it in this league."

When you're around someone who radiates that aura of excellence and integrity, all you can do is learn.

"To be taken under his wing and learn from a 14-year vet is a blessing and a great opportunity," said Armstrong.

McNeil has played through numerous nagging injuries this season.

But knowing his next game could be his last has given the 37-year-old a little extra adrenaline.

"It's nothing that has bothered me in games or practices but in the mornings, I feel it a lot more than I have in the past," says McNeil of the constant bumps and bruises.

"One of these last three games is going to be my last game.

"I want to make sure we've got three more left in us."

McNeil says he has no idea how many young linemen he's mentored over the years.

But he's convinced Armstrong will be a good one.

"When you've got good guys like that, it makes it easier," he says of his teaching role.

"When they're eager to learn, it's fun to train and practice with them, and try to give them as many pointers as you can."


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