Prime time arrives for men in middle

WES GILBERTSON

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

Tray Blackmon admits he knows next to nothing about Shea Emry.

Until a few days ago, he hadn't even heard of him.

But heading into tonight's regular-season opener and Grey Cup rematch, the Calgary Stampeders rookie middle linebacker knows exactly what his Montreal Alouettes counterpart is going through.

"Oh man, if he's feeling anything like me ..." Blackmon said yesterday, flashing a grin as wide as the uprights after final walk-through at McMahon Stadium.

"If he's feeling anything like me, he's jacked, he's ready to go make some plays, make some hits, get this win and feel good about himself and being in that position -- and make the coaches and the team feel good about him being in that position.

"At some point, you've got to get to the point where it's just let's go out there and put it all on the field."

Blackmon and Emry will be the centres of attention tonight, each making their first professional starts at one of the most important positions on the defensive side of the ball.

Blackmon, 23, an import rookie who skipped his senior season with the Auburn Tigers to provide for his wife and four young children, zoomed up Calgary's depth chart last week, climbing from third-stringer to starter after veteran JoJuan Armour was released and sophomore Lemarcus Rowell was sidelined by a knee injury.

Emry, a product of Richmond. B.C., cut his teeth on special teams last season and was once again expecting to register the bulk of his tackles stopping returns.

That all changed when the Alouettes cut ties with former all-star Reggie Hunt, clearing the way for the 23-year-old to step into the starting rotation.

Most of what Emry knows about Blackmon was gleaned from a sports highlight show earlier this week.

"I was watching something two days ago on TSN (about Blackmon) and it was funny because it was exactly the same story," Emry said.

"I was looking at him and I knew exactly what was going through his head."

With both teams welcoming back all of their key weapons from last season -- when the Stampeders or Alouettes finished atop the league in almost every offensive category -- Blackmon and Emry will face a stiff test in their debut starts.


Videos

Photos