Stamps speedster eyes return to top

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:44 AM ET

At one point in time, it looked as if Larry Taylor could be replaced by a similar player with the Montreal Alouettes.

Late in the 2009 season, while Taylor was in the midst of winning the CFL's most outstanding special teams player award, a fellow speed demon was added to the roster.

Turns out Chad Owens and Taylor have plenty in common.

Neither stands very tall, both can make opponent's pay if they don't corral him and both are fierce competitors.

"We're similar but I may have a bit more top-end speed," said Taylor, who is now with the Calgary Stampeders. "We both sees things similar on the field. He may have a bit of height on me, though."

Owens, a rising start with the Toronto Argonauts, can't disagree.

"I would say he is faster," he said. "He's a great player and you can't knock the heart. We're both undersized players and both give it all we got when we step on the field."

The 5-foot-6 Taylor and the 5-foot-8 Owens actually have the same agent, and they met before becoming Alouettes teammates. They have another thing in common: Both were jettisoned by the Als.

Taylor was released at the end of 2010, while Owens was traded to Toronto before that season began.

So when the Argonauts kick off against the Calgary Stampeders Friday night in the season opener, there will be a matchup between the last two CFL title holders on special teams.

Taylor played just one game last season after coming back from an NFL stint and he's looking to get back to his form of two years ago.

He missed a league-wide return-game renaissance last season as the likes of Owens, Hamilton's Marcus Thigpen and B.C.'s Yonus Davis exploded onto the scene as major playmakers.

Owens is the reigning champ, but Taylor has plans on getting back his title, which should make it fun to watch all season.

"I'm not worried about any of that," Owens said. "I believe in what I can do. I can control what I can do. That's all I will do. Whatever happens at the end of the year, that's out of my control.

"I'm not shooting to win the title again. I'm shooting to win the Grey Cup. That's where my mindset is at."

Taylor missed the Stampeders' final pre-season game to be with his wife for the birth of his fourth son.

He was being pressured all Stampeders training camp by sophomore Landan Talley, who will be a healthy scratch for the opener.

Talley sees the situation Owens used to be in -- watching Taylor and waiting for a chance -- as similar to his now.

"When you have some great like Larry, you can tell there is a lot to learn from him," Talley said. "That's all I'm doing. Biding my time. When they call and say they need me, I will be ready."

Owens turned down the chance to do what Taylor did and make an attempt at an NFL gig, instead signing an extension with the Argos this off-season.

He starts off this season in the same place he did a year ago. On Canada Day 2010, Owens ripped off a 90-yard punt return TD, carrying Stampeders defender Brandon Browner on his back the final 10 yards.

But the season ended in disappointment with a loss to the Alouettes in the East final, so Owens is focused on getting his team over the hump.

"This is unbelievable that's been a year already," Owens said. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else right now. I'm happy to be exactly where I was a year ago. I'm back on the same stage."

Through Taylor's entire sojourn in the U.S., Owens kept in contact with him and they remain friends.

They are part of a tight fraternity.

"I have a lot of respect for guys who do what I do," Owens said. "Returning isn't something that just anyone can do.

"You need to have IT. All the big returners in this league, we all enjoy it. We like the excitement and what it does to the crowd. It's an exciting part of the game."

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca twitter.com/ianbusby57


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