Always up for a scrap

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

Mike Maurer likes a good scrap.

But the veteran fullback likes the qualities embodied by the X-Men's Wolverine character even more.

The comic book superhero is compact, tenacious and tough.

That pretty much describes the Saskatoon-born back who began sporting mutton chops a couple of years ago to give himself a Wolverine-like appearance.

"I was in a wedding party and the groom was kind of uptight," chuckled Maurer when accused of looking like a latter-day Father of Confederation. "I did it as kind of a joke but I liked the way it looked and kept it."

Even with the bruised sternum that landed him on the shelf late last week, Maurer is still very much in the Edmonton Eskimos mix.

As soon as he's ready, Maurer will be back on the field duking it out with Mathieu Bertrand and CFL newcomer Deitan Dubuc for the starting fullback's job.

At six feet and 233 pounds, Maurer is a specimen.

TEST HIS SKILLS IN A PROFESSIONAL BOUT

A former army reservist, the 29-year-old trains constantly. An accomplished mixed martial artist, the one-time Regina Ram wants to test his ju-jitsu and kick-boxing skills in professional bout.

"Actually, I wanted to fight last off-season but I didn't get enough training in," explained Maurer, who can also push the football as a long-snapper.

"Hopefully, this off-season I can step in the ring. There's all kinds of mixed martial arts bouts in Alberta and Saskatchewan."

The prospect of having a player step into the ring for a mixed martial arts bout would be enough to send any NHL, NBA, NFL or Major League Baseball general manager screaming from the room.

Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow is the NFL poster child when it comes to breaching the "dangerous activities" clause.

Hopping on a motor bike with a broken leg, then dumping the bike and tearing up his knee could cost Winslow up to $5.8 million US.

Running back Elvis Joseph is one of several Esks hopefuls with NFL service on their resume. Joseph did a double take when informed of Maurer's desire to step into the ring.

Although he wasn't in Winslow's league salary-wise, Joseph wasn't willing to risk his paycheque while in the employ of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"Anything that you did away from the football field, you were on your own," offered Joseph, who is battling Reggie White and Ron McLendon for the tailback job.

"There's a lot at stake (financially) and you've really got to take care of your body, away from the football field."

Maurer's former employers, the Ottawa Renegades, didn't give his yearning to fight professionally a second thought.

"The told me to do what I had to do to get ready," the nine-year CFL veteran said.

Esks head coach Danny Maciocia was unaware of Maurer's desire to engage in hand-to-hand combat for pay at some point early in the new year.

True to form, the unflappable rookie coach took the news in stride.

'A NO-NONSENSE GUY'

"People refer to him as a cowboy. He's a no-nonsense type of guy and he likes to play a tough, physical game," Maciocia said. "If that's something that he wants to consider, that's fine. As long as we can get through this season with him at fullback and he can do the things that we expect him to do, we'll address the rest of it down the line."

Timing has been Maurer's biggest foe to this point.

Fitting his pro debut into the CFL off-season and the start of training camp has been the biggest stumbling block to this point.

"I'm trying to shoot for something in March," Maurer explained. "That would give me enough time to train for it and at the same time enough time to recover if an injury occurred."


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