Just five games into his CFL career, Eric Fraser has earned a feather for his cap.
And it means he’s somewhat arrived with the Calgary Stampeders.
The rookie safety was given a feather this week for the front of his helmet courtesy of veteran Wes Lysack (who has a bigger one of course).
“I guess it means something to give me one,” said Fraser. “Teammates tell me he’s been doing it a long time. There are feathers flying around on the field, so he found one for me.”
Things have gone great for Fraser in his freshman campaign with the Stamps, but in a perfect world he probably would be suiting up for the B.C. Lions instead this weekend.
Growing up in Burnaby, B.C., the 23-year-old was a season-ticket holder for the Lions and he watched the likes of Dave Dickenson and Ryan Thelwell excel for the team.
He hoped to join them someday.
But when the Central Michigan product was eligible for the draft last spring, the Lions passed on him with three first-round picks.
Instead, they took running back Jamall Lee, linebacker James Yurichuk and receiver Matt Carter.
“I thought they would pick me but they didn’t,” Fraser said. “Now it’s enemy territory over there.
“Once their last pick had passed, I was disappointed. Then the phone call from Calgary came. It’s still close enough to my parents and Calgary is a great city.”
Fraser expects to have 20 to 30 friends and family at Empire Fields for Saturday’s visit to play the Lions.
At least his parents were able to take care of the tickets (“They will be spread out. I won’t have one cheering section,” he said) so that the freshman can concentrate on getting ready for the biggest outing of his young career.
Homecomings are special in the CFL and Fraser is planning on big things happening for his first one.
All in all, the 2009 first-round draft pick (eighth overall) has done an admirable job — enough to earn some praise from the veteran Lysack.
“I thought it was time to induct them into the club,” Lysack said about the feathers, another of which went to fellow rookie Taurean Allen, although it’s smaller than Fraser’s.
Even with the decent start, Fraser still feels he needs to make improvements.
“I’m still getting the defence down,” he said. “There are a few missed assignments each week I’m working on in practice. I feel like I’ve adjusted to the bigger field really well.
“I’m running well and getting in better shape. Each week is getting better for conditioning and the number of plays I’m doing.
“I just need that quarterback sack now. I missed a couple. I had my hands on the quarterback a couple times.”
In last Saturday’s win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Fraser came free on a safety blitz but Steven Jyles made a move. The rookie left his feet to jump for him and the quarterback skipped out of the way.
It’s not the first time it’s happened this season, but Fraser hopes it’s the last.
“There’s a lot of pressure on me,” he said. “I’m getting frustrated being there and having him slither away.
“I’ve worked on a couple things this week. Maybe this is the week … finally. Maybe
I can do it in front of family and friends in Vancouver.”
As for the feather, it might just be for practice days, although Fraser isn’t sure.
“I don’t know if it travels with me,” he said. “I have to ask Wes what the protocol is. It’s only been a couple of days.”