Back-up primed to shine

WES GILBERTSON

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

Calgary Stampeders backup quarterback Barrick Nealy wants his mentor, Henry Burris, to know he's lurking in the shadows.

With Smilin' Hank holding court for a TV camera after a training camp session earlier this week at McMahon Stadium, Nealy put on a show of his own. As Burris fielded questions, the second-string pivot peeled his shirt and did a few quick sit-ups -- a la Terrell Owens -- on the turf as his teammates hooted and hollered in the background.

"It's really hard, man, because Hank is 38 or 39 years old, and he looks like he's 25," Nealy said afterwards, sporting a smile as wide as the uprights as he took a friendly jab at the Stamps star signal-caller.

"And I'm 25 myself, so I've got to try to keep up. I'm like, this guy doesn't age at all."

In reality, Burris is only 34 and is coming off a career year, giving Stampeders brass good reason to believe there's a few good years left in his rocket right arm. But Nealy's coming of age as a quarterback is good news for the defending Grey Cup champions.

Heading into last season, the Stamps made headlines by signing former MVP Dave Dickenson to hold the clipboard and serve as Burris' emergency replacement. With Dickenson now on staff as an offensive assistant, Nealy is the veteran fill-in.

"I don't know about the veteran part of it, because honestly, I still feel like a rookie out there," said Nealy, a former Texas State Bobcats star entering his fourth CFL campaign.

"But I think the biggest thing is just showing the coaching staff that I can be reliable and step in and run this offence just as well as Henry does.

"A big thing that I've had to deal with this off-season is just realizing that I'm not Henry Burris. I'm not going to do the same things that Henry does out there, you know? Henry has his things that he does really well and I have my things, so I've just got to stay within myself."

Arena League veteran Matt D'Orazio and Drew Tate, who spent last season on the Saskatchewan Roughriders' practice roster, are also battling for time under centre, but Nealy should be a lock for the No.-2 job.

He's already provided a glimpse of what he's capable of, especially on the ground. In last year's regular-season finale against the B.C. Lions, Nealy wowed the McMahon Stadium faithful with some fancy footwork, rushing six times for 72 yards and three touchdowns.

Burris, who Nealy describes as a brother-like figure, is excited to see what the 6-foot-5, 212-lb. pivot can accomplish against the Lions in the first exhibition tilt next week.

"He's still growing, he's still a young guy in the game, but he's definitely getting better," Burris said. "His time to show his stuff comes next Wednesday in the pre-season game. I told him, this is your preparation for your big audition."

WES.GILBERTSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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