Canadian picks up slack

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

The move happened so quietly, it certainly wasn't befitting a first-overall pick.

But Miguel Robede doesn't mind the little -- if any -- fanfare that surrounded him taking a starting role for the first time in his CFL career.

When Wes Lysack left hurt after the second play of the game in Toronto Sept. 27 (Mike Labinjo was already scratched with an injury), the Calgary Stampeders defence was in need of a Canadian to step into a full-time role.

With his 6-foot-4, 280-lb. frame, Robede fit the bill, taking up space for more snaps at defensive tackle.

"We had the rotation all season, so it's not like he hasn't been on the field, but we had to depend on the fact he was going to play a bit more and he's done a nice job," said Stamps head coach John Hufnagel.

"He's improved throughout the year. He didn't have a lot of experience since he's been here, but you can see the progress he's made this year with a chance to play."

The Stamps made a splash when they drafted Robede with the first-overall pick in the 2005 Canadian college draft. Then, the Laval product turned heads when he choose to go back and finish his senior season. The 27-year-old arrived with the Stamps the following spring, but never quite fit into defensive co-ordinator Denny Creehan's system through 2006 and 2007.

It wasn't until Creehan was fired last year that Robede was even dressed for action, and he was used sparingly last year when Tim Burke took over.

But this season, Hufnagel and new defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones gave Robede the chance to play, and he has thrived. He hasn't missed a game and has recorded four quarterback sacks. It would have been five, but one against the Roughriders Monday was considered a rushing attempt.

Now that both Canadian starters Labinjo and Lysack are ready to return, the Stamps may go back to more of a rotation and give Howard Hodges more snaps instead of Robede.

But nothing can keep the smile off Robede's face these days, because he proved he can handle the bigger load, especially with no notice, which was the case in Toronto when Lysack was hurt on the second play.

"It was a big moment for me," Robede said. "But as long as I play for this defence, I will be happy. If they decide to make me the starter, I will be really happy, but if they make a backup, then I'll be happy with that. I will do what I have to do.

"Every time I get the opportunity, I will do my best to help the team win. It's the way I see it now, and it's probably a good way of looking at it."

Playing defensive tackle means he must take a beating in order to open up holes for the ends and linebackers. Although Robede was an end during his college days, he is thrilled to play tackle.

"Hands in the throat, hands in the face, punches to the ribs, smacks on the back, shots both high and low ... that's what this is," Robede said with a laugh.

"You have to get used to it and then fight it. Once you are used to it, those things aren't as effective. I love it. I love the rough and tough stuff."

So far, Robede hasn't been in any brawls, although he says he will give as much as he takes, to a point. "I don't bite. I just play as hard as the other guy," Robede said.


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