Coping skills

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

Entering his eighth CFL season, Jeremaine Copeland has a new role.

This one isn't on the field, although it seems he's been preparing for it the past few years with the Calgary Stampeders.

Away from McMahon Stadium, Copeland is now 'Dad.'

His gal, Talia, gave birth to the couple's first child, a boy named Isaiah, in late December.

"It didn't slow me down, but it made me a happier person," said the Stampeders receiver.

"I'm always smiling now. I can't wait to go home to him all the time."

Heading into the 2007 CFL season, Copeland needed to prove his value to the team that signed him away from the Montreal Alouettes in 2005.

The Stamps had signed former Kansas City Chief Marc Boerigter as a potential replacement for Copeland, but the veteran playmaker from Tennessee worked his butt off to re-establish himself as an elite receiver.

Now that he has a family in Calgary, and has his starting role set heading into tonight's season opener against the B.C. Lions at McMahon Stadium (8 p.m., TSN, subject to blackout), the 31-year-old feels 100% better than last year at this time.

"I've made the statement. They know I'm the playmaker I've always been, so I'm going out to relax and have some fun," Copeland said

"I don't have the stress on me that I did last year. I didn't need to prove it to myself, I just needed to prove it to the coaches.

"I've always said that I'm in great shape and ready to go. I'm not old. There's guys out there who are 35 or 36. I'm 31 and just turned it. I think I'm in my prime, in the middle of my best years.

"Truthfully, I'm just going out to have fun."

Copeland's partner in crime, Nik Lewis, knew the receiver would be a great father because of the way he helped shape the younger pass-catcher's career.

Before Copeland showed up, Lewis admits he wasn't making the most of his ability.

The leadership was most prevalent in practice, when Copeland would chastise Lewis for dogging it when nothing was on the line.

"He's shown me how to be more professional, each and every day," Lewis said.

"I was one of those players who showed up on game day. I didn't practise too hard. I figured once the game came around, I would be able to go out and do it.

"That's the way it was the first couple of years. It worked, but at the same time I needed to be more professional and get better at my craft. I couldn't just come out and be a good player."

With the entire five starting receivers returning -- Copeland, Lewis, Ken-Yon Rambo, Ryan Thelwell and Brett Ralph -- the Stamps are stocked at that position.

While all of those players have at least three years of experience, Copeland is the undisputed leader.

Having an experienced group with a dedicated leader makes life easier on quarterback Henry Burris, who is entering his fourth season with the core intact.

Burris, who himself is a father, said having a family changes your perspective, and he's seen that happen with Copeland.

"He planted the seed and got a little one. Having a child changes your whole perspective on life," Burris said.

"It forces you to make the right decisions all the time, because not only does it affect your team, but the family at home."


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