Junior achievement

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

Once upon a time, a long time ago, junior football players, Huskies and Wildcats, used to make the Eskimos on a regular basis.

Then, in 1965, Ron Forwick graduated from the Huskies to become the last player to come out of junior football and make it. Throughout his 10-year career, it was his celebrated claim to fame.

Years later, along came Larry Wruck, a Saskatoon Hilltop, picking up the flag and carrying it for 12 more seasons, looking for sure to be the Last of the Mohicans.

Who would have believed, in 2005, there would be two players to come out of junior football to make the Eskimos in the same season. One Wildcat. One Husky.

- 'Cats long snapper Taylor Inglis, head coach Danny Maciocia confirmed yesterday, will play Friday in the opener against the Ottawa Renegades.

- 'Dogs DB J.R. LaRose will start the season on the practice roster, "but consider him as having made our football team," added the rookie head coach, who not that long ago was a junior football coach.

The late great Forwick would have a great grin today. And Wruck definitely does.

"It's great to see," said Wruck.

"As a guy labelled a junior football player, you have to work twice as hard. You have a lot of things stacked against you. You're just not held in the same regard as college players. You have to prove yourself over and over and over. You have to prove yourself a half-dozen times. But it looks like they're going to fit in somewhere.

KEPT LOOKING AT HIM

"I came out of the Hilltops to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1983. I spent all of '83 on the practice roster but they kept looking at me as a junior. Then the Eskimos traded for me before the season started in '84."

Equipment manager Dwayne Mandrusiak recalls that day. "I remember saying 'We traded for a junior football player?' "

Wruck quickly became a starter and a star.

You can make the case that Inglis doesn't really count as coming out of junior football. He hung around (but barely played) with the U of A Golden Bears for three years before he went to the Wildcats. But don't tell him he didn't come out of junior.

"I take a lot of pride in it. The fact book says 'Edmonton Wildcats'," he says of the roster where other guys have Alabama, Washington State, Michigan, Ohio State, and Harvard.

"If I hadn't played with the Wildcats last year, I wouldn't be here this year. Gary Durchik is the reason I'm here," he said of the Wildcats coach who turned him into a long snapper and convinced the Eskimos to take a long look at the kid.

"I was fortunate the timing was really good for me. The exhibition games really were good for me, too. I really had a chance to show what I could do.

A PRETTY HUGE THRILL

"It was a pretty huge thrill to go out there and play before 38,000," he said of the first pre-season game in Commonwealth Stadium. "I had 15 or 20 friends and relatives right behind the bench for that first game and they were screaming and yelling all game long."

Inglis basically became a Wildcat because he flunked out of the U of A. Maybe not a good thing in life. Tell him that now.

"There is such a difference in me from a year ago. There's a difference in who I am. I have a job. I can't believe it's playing pro football. I have a girlfriend. I have a house. And I'm going back to school - Concordia, in September."

For LaRose, it's even bigger.

"Inglis has a bright future in this league and should play for a long time. But LaRose, he was the No. 1 surprise of training camp. He not only won the respect of the rest of the team, but it was great to see all the defensive backs cheering for him on the sidelines," said Maciocia.

"I was going against all odds," said LaRose as he showed up in the Commonwealth Stadium locker-room to find he had his own stall with his own name on it.

"I know how long the odds were for me coming to camp. But they've told me they're going to groom me and bring me slowly into the system. I just have to make sure I keep progressing," said the player who has two years of junior eligibility left.

"I'm living out my dream. I always dreamed of being an Eskimo since I was a kid and went to the games to watch Gizmo Williams.

"I take a lot of pride in the idea junior football players can point to me and believe if I can make it, maybe they can, too."


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