Rookie Bender looking forward to getting feet wet

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:46 AM ET

CALGARY - You can’t tell John Bender Wednesday night doesn’t mean anything.

Growing up in Three Hills, the Calgary Stampeders offensive lineman worshipped the CFL team.

And through four seasons at Nevada University, his parents only made it out to two games.

So when the Stamps face the B.C. Lions during the pre-season opener at McMahon Stadium, he gets to pull on a real jersey and have his folks in the building to see him battle fellow CFL prospects across the line.

“I’m glad it’s going to happen before the regular season,” said the 24-year-old rookie. “I get a chance to get my feet wet, pull on the jersey and see how it feels. When the season starts, hopefully, I hit the ground running.”

This might be Bender’s busiest game all season.

With Dimitri Tsoumpas and Jon Gott nursing injuries and a rotation in place, Bender will spend quite a bit of time on the field at guard.

Coming out of an NCAA program much different from the CFL, Bender knew he would have a steep learning curve with the Stamps. After 10 days of practice and two days of rookie camp, Bender is getting up to speed t the next level.

“I’m not where

I want to be yet, but I’m making baby steps every day,” Bender said.

“The game has slowed down a lot for me lately. It’s not just super fast anymore. It’s going a lot better.”

Bender came into camp knowing there would be plenty of change.

At Nevada, he was a pulling guard, so he was often in motion running downhill against a linebacker.

The Stamps run quite a bit different system than he was used in with the Wolfpack.

“Everything I learned in college is thrown out the window,” Bender said. “The way I moved my hands and feet, where I placed them, there are a lot of subtle differences.

“It would be OK if there were five or six differences, but once you get to 10, it becomes a big deal. It’s something I have to remember to do and focus on.

“I had a pretty good idea our technique was old-school. The coach has been there for 30 years, so some of the techniques are really outdated.

“For us in that system, it worked. We had a great run game. You take us out of that system, we need to learn new technique.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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