Father's Day brings out Big Brotherly love

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

Father's Day had a different meaning for Mike Labinjo through his formative years.

It was more like father-figure day.

Growing up in a single-parent home, Labinjo would spend the annual day in June with his 'Big Brother' Frank Giffen.

When the Calgary Stampeders defensive end was about seven, his father went back to his native Nigeria, leaving Labinjo with his mother and younger brother Randy.

Labinjo's mother felt young Mike needed some male influence and got him into the Big Brother program.

Even when Labinjo became an adult, went on to college and then pro football, the two stayed in touch. Nothing has changed in his time with the Stamps.

"We talk all the time through BlackBerry," Labinjo said yesterday. "I will probably give him a call later on today and see how things are going.

"I viewed him as a role model growing up. It's obviously changed over the years.

"We're more like buddies now. I used to send him the Father's Day cards when I was a kid. Now, we're just good friends."

About three years ago, Frank moved to London for work and Labinjo hadn't been there to visit until this past off-season.

Almost right after the Grey Cup ended, Labinjo hopped the pond, and he and Frank toured through France and Spain together.

The best part of the trip for Labinjo was going to Vimy Ridge, Dieppe and Juno Beach.

"I didn't realize how much of an impact Canada had in both wars," Labinjo said.

"It really opened my eyes wide, and it made me proud to be Canadian. I'm hoping to go back again this off-season."

The trip was long overdue. Labinjo had planned to take the vacation a year earlier, but he had to stick around Calgary to rehab an elbow injury that cost him the latter half of the 2007 season.

Although Labinjo has reconnected with his father, the 28-year-old is still closer to his big brother, who was at both the West final win over the B.C. Lions and the Grey Cup in Montreal.

"I put it in the past, so we try to maintain a somewhat decent relationship," Labinjo said about his father.


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