Cote's hard work doesn't go unnoticed by Hufnagel

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:45 AM ET

As far as first impressions go, it'll be tough for any of the new Calgary Stampeders to top Rob Cote's introduction to the Canadian Football League.

Two years ago, after cracking the Stamps roster as an undrafted free agent with only two years of junior experience under his cleats, Cote hauled in a touchdown strike in his first professional outing.

He was named the CFL's top Canadian for opening week.

"That was an awesome, awesome moment for me," Cote said. "You couldn't wipe the smile off my face, I'll tell you that much."

Cote's first touchdown was a dream come true. The next will be long overdue.

The bulky fullback had a pair of majors in his freshman campaign, but hasn't made a trip to the endzone since July 28, 2007.

With two CFL campaigns already in his rearview mirror, it's easy to forget Cote is still the youngest player on the Stampeders roster. The Cochrane native will celebrate his 23rd birthday just four days after Wednesday's season-opener and Grey Cup rematch against the Montreal Alouettes.

A touchdown pass from Henry Burris would be a heck of a present.

Cote got a bit of a gift earlier this week from head coach John Hufnagel, who heaped praise on the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder as he addressed the media after making his final training camp cuts.

Before former NFLer Teyo Johnson unretired and rejoined the club two days ago, Cote had the inside track on the starting fullback gig.

Johnson's arrival could knock him down the depth chart a notch, but if Hufnagel's comments are any indication, the youngster made the most of his cameo with the first-team offence.

"I told Rob after the first week of camp his improvement was 50%, to throw out a figure," Hufnagel said. "There was a great improvement on Rob's play and I was pleased to see that. He's still a very young player.

"He's athletic and he can catch the ball very well. He could fill in as an emergency receiver if needed. He's athletic enough we can extend him and he can win some matchups. His blocking has improved, and that's crucial for that position."

Hufnagel isn't exactly known for offering up glowing assessments, and Cote was all smiles when informed yesterday of the coach's remarks.

"Fifty is a great number," he said. "I definitely worked my butt off all off-season, so that's good to hear."

EXTRA POINT

The Stampeders confirmed yesterday R Jabari Arthur suffered a broken bone in his foot during Friday's practice. It's unlikely he'll need surgery, but Arthur will be sidelined for several weeks.


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