Fun keeps Thelwell on gridiron

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

Ryan Thelwell doesn't feel that old.

He is, however, the second-oldest guy in the Calgary Stampeders locker-room, and his buddies in the Red & White receiving corps won't let him forget it.

"I just kind of take it. I know I'm the old man," Thelwell said. "(Offensive lineman Rob Lazeo) is older than me, but Laz is a big man, so they don't really pick on him as much.

"It's a receiver thing -- they get on me. You know, I've got a few more grey hairs, but it's all in fun and I don't mind. It's all part of being with the group."

Thelwell, who celebrated his 36th birthday in April, was one of just a handful of Stampeders not still in diapers -- if that -- when Ram Jam recorded Black Betty in 1977, but they're all familiar with the tune after yesterday's two-a-day practice session.

Keeping with a tradition that dates back to 1993, the song played in the locker-room, lunch-room, on the field and just about everywhere else the training camp hopefuls went yesterday.

"I'm to the point now where I don't even hear it, but then there's times where I'll catch myself humming it or singing it," Thelwell said. "It's funny because the older guys are used to it -- the guys who've been around -- but the new guys are like, 'What the heck is going on here?'

"The vets love it. It's funny, you might be out and you'll hear it and you'll catch yourself singing all the words, so it's a fun thing."

Football is still fun for Thelwell, and that's the biggest reason the sure-handed receiver from London, Ont., is still lacing up his cleats every day.

Thelwell is entering his ninth CFL campaign, including his third at McMahon Stadium. He spent six seasons with the B.C. Lions, being named a West Division all-star twice and winning a Grey Cup in 2006.

Thelwell added a second ring last season with the Stamps and couldn't pass up an opportunity to try to complete the hat-trick.

"The fact that we are Grey Cup champs and we get to defend it at home, to me, it was a no-brainer. That's something that would be a great opportunity," Thelwell said.

"I'm excited. Huf (coach John Hufnagel) came up and talked to me after the season and said 'We want you to come back,' it was 'Oh, in a heartbeat.' As long as they want me and physically I feel like I can go out and help the team with whatever needs to be done, then I'll be there."

Even if it means shrugging off the occasional one-liner.

Often, the forgotten fifth man among a cast of receivers that includes flashy imports Jeremaine Copeland, Nik Lewis, Ken-Yon Rambo and Raymond's Brett Ralph, Thelwell has shown he can still keep up with the kids.

He fingers Lewis as one of the main culprits for teasing him about his age, but the slotback had nothing but good things to say about his veteran teammate yesterday.

"He's smooth, that's why we call him T. Smooth," Lewis said.

"He gets open and he does his job and he's very unselfish -- anything you ask him to do, he does it.

"You wouldn't think he's as old as he is if you didn't know because he's just as smooth as he was when he got here and he's just as smooth as he was in B.C.

"He's a great addition to this team because it takes people like that to join together with and have success."


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