Ex-Saint on new path

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

By comparison, any pressure to help the Calgary Stampeders repeat as Grey Cup champions must seem like small potatoes.

Nothing could compare to E.J. Kuale's rookie season with the New Orleans Saints in 2006, when Louisiana's only NFL squad was being counted on to give residents of a state and city ravaged by hurricane Katrina something to cheer about.

"It was an experience I'll never forget," Kuale said.

"Just seeing the Fleur-de-Lis, the symbol that's on the Saints helmet, it brought a smile to some of the residents of New Orleans' faces. We went to the NFC championship that year, right before the Super Bowl, and it brought a little bit of light to the city."

Three years later and thousands of kilometres away, the towering defensive end is trying to get his football career back on track in a Stamps uniform. The former Louisiana State Tiger was stashed on the Saints' practice squad for the entire '06 season, but was waived that off-season after being charged with felony weapons possession and misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

The charges were eventually dropped and Kuale insisted it "wasn't what everybody made it to be."

The incident cost the 6-foot-2, 238-pounder his spot with the Saints, but it also provided an eye-opener and a valuable lesson about the type of people he surrounds himself with.

"You've just got to be a pro," Kuale said. "You have to carry yourself as a pro both on and off the field in the city, and you've just got to be a pro about everything you do and not let little mishaps come up because that was my fault. Wasn't nobody's fault but mine."

Kuale, 25, is one of four imports battling to start opposite Mike Labinjo on the Stampeders' defensive line. With the B.C. Lions here for an exhibition tilt tonight, Kuale will get his first chance to endear himself to the home fans.

"He's very athletic and is working to improve," Stamps GM/head coach John Hufnagel said.

"I'm anxious to get him in a game and see what he can do at that defensive end position."

Kuale attended training camp with the Kansas City Chiefs last season but couldn't crack the lineup. He hasn't given up on his NFL dreams, but has some business to tend to at McMahon Stadium first.

"I'm glad to be a Stamp, want to be a Stamp," he said.

"And I want to bring the Grey Cup back to Calgary."


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