Friends big hit as D duo

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

When Tray Blackmon prepares to deliver one of his huge hits, his face scrunches up and his teeth grind together as he throws his body into the blow.

It's scary.

But that's strictly on the field with the Calgary Stampeders.

The fellow rookie he shares the middle linebacker position with, Tristan Black, has become friends with Blackmon given his off-field demeanour.

"He's a nicer guy than he looks," Black said.

"He looks mean, but he's actually one of the nicest guys I've ever met.

"I hang out with him the most out of anybody on the team. We get a lot of chances to hang out and go over schemes together."

Since the Stampeders released JoJuan Armour in training camp, there have been questions about the middle linebacker position.

After one game, it appears the Stamps are comfortable with the rookie duo, despite losing 40-27 to the Montreal Alouettes.

While other parts of the defence are being shifted, as the Stamps have shuffled their defensive line a bit, Blackmon and Black have emerged as a definite 1 and 1A in the middle. Make that TB and TB-A.

"We're pretty cool," Blackmon said about the relationship.

"We help each other a lot and learn from each other a lot."

Blackmon made the biggest splash on defence against the Als, as he blasted running back Avon Cobourne in the backfield for a loss.

The shot pumped up the Stamps and provided a boost to the entire team.

"You don't ever change the game with one hit," said defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones.

"You can add to momentum by doing that. You can get people excited by doing that.

"He's certainly a physical player, and whenever you can get a hard, physical shot, we'll take it. We will play physical and play smart."

Black also had a good debut, recording four tackles on defence but his biggest play came on special teams when he blocked a punt.

Although just a second-round pick during the spring's draft, the 25-year-old Toronto native is playing more than expected on defence.

"In our packages, we utilized his talents and skill," Jones said about Black's size (6-foot-3, 243-lb.). "He held up pretty good. We will pick and choose when to use his skills."

It appears the Stamps will move defensive end Mike Labinjo to tackle and start another rookie, Odell Willis, at the rush-end spot. The move will give the Stamps some options when it comes to the import ratio.

Right now, Blackmon is the starter at middle linebacker, and Black just hopes to keep pace when he replaces him.

"We do some of the same things," Black said. "He's probably a step faster. I might be a little stronger so I can go down on the line a little bit more.

"Tray is an amazing linebacker, so that's why he's starting. Tray is always in for a big hit. He did it all through pre-season as well. You can always expect a big hit out of Tray."

Blackmon admitted to being a bit anxious for the opener.

"I was nervous and not feeling comfortable," Blackmon said. "As every play went on, I was feeling more comfortable. I come out to practice, and every play I feel a bit more comfortable.

"I think now my comfort level is at an all-time high. I'm feeling good about the defensive schemes and the other players on the team. My body feels good. I'm ready to go out and play again."


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