Tires, pants and poetry ... 10 true tales

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

Behind the scenes with every CFL team there are intriguing, interesting and quirky stories that are often undetected.

The Edmonton Eskimos definitely have their fair share of these true tales that will make you sit up and say "hmmm."

Here is a selection of 10:

1. POETRY OF PAIN AND SUFFERING

Growing up on the nasty inner-city streets of Toronto, Jason Nugent definitely comes from the school of hard knocks.

And his childhood and teenage memories have made it to paper, thanks to his desire to write poetry and short stories.

"Growing up when I was 18, my best friend was murdered and the pain I felt kind of got reflected on paper," said Nugent, who was drafted in the second round of this spring's CFL college draft.

"It was gang violence. I wasn't involved and he wasn't involved. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

2. TIRE KINGS

Proving the Edmonton Eskimos have no shortage of strength-training drills available for players, defensive lineman Randy Spencer has built tire lifting into his workout regimen.

But he's not fooling around with any ordinary tires.

Instead, he can now boast about being able to lift a 1,200-pound tire on the pavement adjacent to the grass practice field on the Commonwealth Stadium grounds.

"You push your shoulder into it, then your hips and then flip it over," said Spencer, noting technique is everything.

For linemen in the trench, it helps build strength in key areas - like the hips and lower core.

3. EMERGENCY PUNTER/KICKER

Although the coaching staff would probably never allow it, quarterbacks Ricky Ray and Steven Jyles could fill the emergency punting and kicking rolls.

In fact, Jyles had quite the powerful leg back in high school in Louisiana.

"My longest punt (in high school) was 80 yards, but it hit the ground probably after 65 yards and rolled the rest," said Jyles, who was actually Louisiana's all-state punter in his senior year.

While Jyles hasn't been caught testing his leg in training camp this spring, Ray was caught hitting a relatively tight spiral punt about 30 yards last week after practice.

Besides being a quarterback in high school, Ray was the punter and kicker.

"I was pretty good at making extra points," said the CFL's highest-paid pivot before admitting he rarely got a chance to try field goals.

4. HEY, I KNOW YOU!

Although 22-year-old defensive end Adam Braidwood has never played a regular-season game in the CFL and is nine years younger than safety William Loftus, they have actually been teammates before.

When Braidwood was just 14 years old, he started playing flag football against men's league teams and met Loftus on the field.

"It was a little intimidating the first couple of years," remembered Braidwood. "Guys were out there fighting and everyone was drinking beer after the football game - and I was sitting there waiting for my mom to pick me up."

Loftus actually called Braidwood on the day the Eskimos drafted him first overall this spring to welcome him to the Green and Gold.

5. CLOTHING CONCERNS

The Esks are a superstitious lot when it comes to their uniform colours.

After wearing the new, gold third jersey in the Labour Day rematch and losing to the Calgary Stampeders, the jersey never saw the light of day again in 2005.

The gold tops reappeared for the home preseason game last week - and the Eskimos lost again.

Considering the results, will the Esks dare to don the gold jersey in the 2006 regular season?

Probably not.

One thing is certain, the players will try to wear the green pants as much as possible to start the year.

After finishing the regular season with a 3-2 record while wearing them last year, the Esks ran the table in the playoffs with those same green pants.

In comparison, Edmonton has a 6-11 regular-season record over the last two years when they wear white pants.

6. FLYING IN STYLE

For the second consecutive year, the Eskimos will use charter flights on many road trips.

In fact, the team won't take a commercial flight until mid-September when it heads to Hamilton.

It's about an $8,000-$10,000 bill to fly charter to Vancouver or Regina, which is slightly more than the cost to buy nearly 60 commercial tickets.

But the extra cost is worth it, according to the players.

"It's a big help," said quarterback Ricky Ray. "When we fly out to B.C. or Saskatchewan, we get to come back the night (of the game on a charter flight).

"You don't want to waste a whole morning waiting to get up and travel back.

"And it gives the coaches a head start to review the film and gives us more time to relax."

By taking charter flights, the team also saves on hotel bills by not staying the night of the game and on per diems, which amount to about $100 per player per day on the road.

7. ROAD BLUES

While the team travels in style on a Boeing 737 jet chartered through Canadian North Airlines, the results on the road aren't exactly pretty.

In the last two years, the Esks are a terrible 6-12 during the regular season on the road.

8. KEEPING QUIET

In the middle of Oiler territory, receiver Richard Alston has kept quiet about the fact he is from Carolina.

While his bio in the Eskimo media guide shows he was born in New Jersey, Alston actually considers himself a Carolina product, which is where he went to school.

So when the Carolina Hurricanes started their Stanley Cup series against the Edmonton Oilers, Alston quietly went about his business and didn't make a sound.

No Stanley Cup side bets with any Edmonton natives on the Eskimos. No trash talking in the locker-room.

9. NO GOUGING

For the first time in Calgary sports history, the Stampeders are charging a premium on certain game-day tickets.

A sports marketing practice in the U.S. for a few years, the Stamps have increased game-day ticket prices for seats in certain sections of McMahon Stadium by about 22% for two games: the Labour Day classic against the Esks and the Aug. 5 clash against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Both games are traditional sellouts, so this is a way for the Stamps to generate even more revenue.

It's also a mechanism that is used to try to convince the public to buy season tickets instead of paying a high cost on the day of the game.

However, the Eskimos aren't going down the road of two-tier pricing.

"We're happy with our season-ticket base and we have a large stadium, so we don't see the need to put a premium on the most in-demand games," said Eskimo marketing director Dave Jamieson.

10. MASTERFUL JOB

Under the category of wicked college jobs, Raleigh Roundtree worked as a bartender at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta, Georgia.

The bar was just beside the 12th hole on the famed course.

"My (college) coach had connections to the Masters and that allowed us to work out there," said Roundtree, who is in his first year with the Eskimos' offensive line after several years in the NFL.

"I was pretty much an errand boy. Go get the ice. Go get the beer.

"But it was great. You got to see a lot of golfers and a lot of people, like (TV commentator) Brent Musburger and Charles Barkley coming to the bar."


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