Red and Right for Pilon

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:58 AM ET

Throughout the early part of the CFL season, the Calgary Stampeders rookies along the offensive line got all the publicity.

Having both first-round draft picks Jesse Newman and Dimitri Tsoumpas as the starting guards is a great story, so it was easy to overlook the work the veterans have done.

Stampeders management didn't do that.

Yesterday, they rewarded veteran right tackle Jeff Pilon with a three-year contract extension, meaning the resident greybeard will likely finish his career with the Red and White.

"Easy now," Pilon said with a laugh when talked about as the team's senior citizen.

"I want to point it out that (centre) Rob Lazeo is older than I am. I have to make that clear.

"I'm just honoured they wanted me back and that I can finish my career here, playing for the Stampeders."

Pilon, who was a third-round draft pick out of Syracuse by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1999, has quietly done an outstanding job this season manning the right tackle spot.

With Tsoumpas working to his left, the 32-year-old has been counted upon for leadership and is doing a great job opening holes for running back Joffrey Reynolds, who had three TDs last week against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

"He's the team's (CFLPA) rep, and they re-elected him, so obviously the players feel he brings a lot of leadership," said head coach and general manager John Hufnagel.

"I'm very pleased we were able to come to terms. Both him and Rob Lazeo help tremendously with the youth on our offensive line."

When Pilon arrived in Calgary, hall-of-famer Rocco Romano was at the end of his tenure, while iron man Jamie Crysdale was in the midst of his consecutive games streak.

In the past couple of years, Pilon watched left guard Jay McNeil take over the leadership roles for those players.

So Pilon just hopes to have the same impact as he takes over the mantle.

It appears he's well on his way to doing that.

"If I get anywhere close to those guys, for what they've done for this league and this team, I would be honoured," Pilon said.

"It's an early part of the year. I always feel I can do better, no matter what you have done. I'm doing well, but there is always room for improvement. If you don't think that way, then you will never get better."

Since joining the Stamps through a trade with the Bombers in 2000, Pilon has never taken the opportunity to become a free agent, and in the past few years, he has set down major roots in Alberta.

He and his wife, Kelly, have a son, Jake, 2, and a baby daughter, Keira, who was born June 20.

Now that he also has a steady job in the oil business, Pilon wouldn't think of leaving Calgary or putting on another jersey other than in red and white.

"Never have, never would," Pilon said.

"From the moment I stepped foot in Calgary, this town embraced me. It's been an awesome experience. I have a job here, and my family settled here. I can't ask for a better place to play and raise a family."

Since Lazeo came over in a trade with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, he and Pilon have become great friends.

And with youngster, Newman, Tsoumpas, Godfrey Ellis and Derek Armstrong, along with starting left tackle Antonio Hall, the Stamps have the makings of a deep, impactful offensive line for a few years. The offence starts with strong play up front, and that's what these guys have provided.

Being around the players is what Pilon enjoys most, especially after they built a 3-1 record and look like legitimate Grey Cup contenders.

"This is an awesome feeling with this team," Pilon said.

"That's what makes you want to come back -- your teammates.

"People say you play for the love of the game, but you also do it for the guys you are playing with. Where else can you go and have a job where you can act like a 15-year-old and have fun every day?

"That's why I wanted to make sure I was coming back. These guys feel we have a real good shot this year."

Bombers let O'Mahony go

Former Stampeders' P Duncan O'Mahony was released yesterday by the Blue Bombers. He had a couple of stints with the Stamps.


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