O'Neill latecomer to Labour Day ordeal

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:27 AM ET

Growing up on Vancouver Island, Tim O'Neill didn't see much CFL action in person.

In fact, when he joined the University of Calgary Dinos for his freshman year in 2002, he finally witnessed his first pro game.

It turned out to be the Labour Day Classic with the Edmonton Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders duking it out in the annual clash.

Ricky Ray took over for Jason Maas at quarterback for the Eskimos and led the visitors to a 28-20 win.

"I've been to every one since then," said O'Neill, who will start at centre for the Stamps today against the Eskimos.

"This is exciting for me. There is more going on than the usual game."

O'Neill played five seasons with the Dinos and the Battle of Alberta in the CFL always landed around the first week of the university season.

But there was one year when the 6-foot-3, 302-lb. lineman was on the other side of the battle.

For the entire 2006 season, O'Neill was on the Eskimos practice roster as a reserve.

Obviously not dressed for Labour Day that year, he instead sat in the stands, but he can't remember if he wore Eskimos gear.

Being on the other side of the rivalry, O'Neill said it's much the same as when he joined the Stamps last season.

"It's a big game for both teams," O'Neill said. "It's exciting on either side for sure."

Since Rob Lazeo went down with a knee injury before the Stamps went to Edmonton Aug. 13, O'Neill has been installed as the starter at centre.

He's doing a fine job, with no problems getting every play started with a snap.

"I still take it game to game," O'Neill said. "I get ready every week and play my best every week.

"If I'm prepared, my confidence is good."

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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