Bahama boy at home on gridiron

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:50 PM ET

Imagine this ... a family in the sun-soaked Bahamas sending a son to the Great White North to hone his swimming skills.

Seems crazy, but that’s exactly what happened to Calgary Stampeders linebacker Karl McCartney.

“All of our athletes — track stars, swimmers — always go abroad to train. That’s how we develop our athletes because we don’t have the coaching,” McCartney explained. “But they wanted me to swim club and I woke up one morning and it was cold outside, so I was like ‘Screw that. Swimming isn’t for me anymore.’ ”

Football, it turns out, is a pretty good fit.

Despite establishing several national age-group swimming record in the Bahamas, the Nassau native has showed he’s just as gifted on the gridiron, starring for the CIS Saint Mary’s Huskies and eventually getting selected by the Stampeders in the fifth round of May’s draft.

Now built better for a cannonball than the butterfly or breaststroke, McCartney would love to make a splash in his first CFL game.

The 22-year-old linebacker is one of seven non-import rookies prepared to hit the field when the Stamps host the Toronto Argonauts in Thursday’s season-opener at McMahon Stadium (8 p.m., TSN, QR77).

Receivers Ron Kelly and Johnny Forzani, defensive backs Taurean Allen and Eric Fraser and kicker Rob Maver all cracked the Stamps’ 46-man roster. After splitting last season between the practice roster and injured list, right guard Steve Myddelton won a starting job on the offensive line and will make his CFL debut, too.

“I’m very excited, and nervous at the same time,” McCartney said. “Physically, I think I’m big enough, strong enough, fast enough, so it’s just the mental aspect.

“Once the coaches prepare you properly and you get in the film room and you’re ready, physically I don’t think it’ll be too big of a challenge. It’s just like any other game — just a little more amped up.”

After Wednesday’s walkthrough, Fraser was trying to stay calm.

“I feel pretty relaxed right now — I’m not too uptight — but I’m sure that will change as the time gets closer,” he said. “To me, football is relaxing. It’s what I’ve been doing for 10-plus years and I feel relaxed when I get out there. It’s relaxing to run around, hit people and just play football.

“We’re grown-ups now, but we’re still playing a kids’ game.”

Starting Thursday night, the Stamps will find out what the kids our made of.

“Being that it’s my first pro game and it’s Canada Day, that’s two big things in one,” Fraser said. “It’s going to be a great night.”

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos