Rookie lines up strong

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:19 AM ET

If the rookie right guard had a bad case of nerves, his quarterback certainly didn't see it.

After the first offensive series Friday night at McMahon Stadium, Calgary Stampeders pivot Henry Burris spotted a huge smile on Dimitri Tsoumpas' face.

"The kid came to the sidelines, and I asked him how it felt," said Burris following the 39-14 pounding of the Edmonton Eskimos in the preseason opener.

"He said, 'I'm loving it. I can't wait to get back out there.' "

Tsoumpas, the No. 2 selection in the 2008 CFL Canadian Draft, is an Edmonton native.

"It was good to see him enjoying himself," Burris continued. "For him to play against his hometown team, it meant that much more to do what he did. We're happy for him, and it's good to have him on our team."

It almost didn't happen. Heading into the CFL draft, the Eskimos held the No. 2 pick and were all set to take Tsoumpas, who is from the so-called City of Champions.

But the Stamps pulled off a huge trade to get the second overall selection and chose Tsoumpas with it, which may turn out to be a steal. Although he is just a rookie coming off one preseason outing, Tsoumpas fit in nicely between veteran centre Rob Lazeo and tackle Jeff Pilon, and the trio was blasting open huge holes.

"I was out there having fun, so if I was smiling, I couldn't help it," Tsoumpas said. "It's kind of a dream. Most guys growing up, they dream about playing pro football.

"To come out and live that dream out, it's pretty significant. There are a lot of emotions running high. It was great to be in the pads, wearing the uniform and being able to play."

Heading into training camp, the biggest question mark for the Stampeders offence was the line. As the longest-serving member of that group, Pilon understands the concern, because three of the starters will be new this season.

But if the line continues this progress, with left tackle Antonio Hall and left guard Godfrey Ellis doing their jobs like Friday night, Burris and running back Joffrey Reynolds have nothing to worry about.

"We have to get used to playing together because we haven't played much together," Pilon said. "Practice isn't the same as a game because it's a bit slower. When the bullets were flying, we started to gel. The communication was starting to get there, and guys were learning what is going on.

"We are figuring how to feel each other out. If we can't learn to play together, we can't make guys like Joffrey look good. It's a good start."

Tsoumpas knows it's a rarity for a 22-year-old to be playing such an important position, so he feels quite lucky to get the chance.

"I feel like I've been very fortunate to be in the situation I'm in," he said. "I'm just trying to make the best of it."


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