Versatility plus

Edmonton Eskimos' Mike Maurer gets ready to snap the ball during team practice at Clarke Park on...

Edmonton Eskimos' Mike Maurer gets ready to snap the ball during team practice at Clarke Park on Monday afternoon. (Edmonton Sun/Walter Tychnowicz)

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:15 AM ET

Like everyone else with the Edmonton Eskimos, Mike Maurer is incredibly determined to defeat the B.C. Lions tomorrow night at B.C. Place.

But sometime over the next two days, the non-import 10-year veteran of the CFL wars also has something else on his to-do list in Vancouver: call the longtime friend who played a major role in keeping his pro football career alive.

Although it has been six years since Paul Girodo helped Maurer stay in the CFL game, the deed hasn't been forgotten.

"I got cut out of Regina (in 2000), it was five games into the season," explained Maurer, who had been an all-star running back with the junior Regina Rams before signing with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1997.

"Paul was staying with me... and he got released the next day (from the Riders). But he had a bit of a different attitude than me.

"He had all this energy and he was always hopped up on coffee and caffeine.

"He was like, 'OK, we got to run, we got to work out, we got to (learn how to) long snap.

"He was saying: 'You're a Canadian, if you can long snap, you are probably not going to get cut again.'

"I was just like - I played three years, that is not a bad career."

LEARN TO SNAP

But Girodo convinced Maurer to keep working out and learn how to snap, even though he wasn't earning a football paycheque anymore - and it eventually paid off.

To this day, Maurer admits there was "a good chance" he would have moved on with life and said the heck with football if Girodo hadn't been so persistent after they both got their walking papers from Saskatchewan GM Roy Shivers.

"He kind of kept me going," Maurer remembered this week.

"We worked out, ran and did long snapping every day."

And so when the B.C. Lions phoned - out of the blue - nearly six weeks after his release from Regina, Maurer was in good enough shape to step in right away and earn a Grey Cup ring later that fall.

The following year, he became an even bigger part of the Lions when he became the club's full-time long snapper.

Five years later, he's not only still in the league, he has arguably become the most versatile and most outstanding Canadian on the Edmonton Eskimos.

With a resume that would make every coach in this league happy - considering the small 42-man playing roster - Maurer is filling four roles with impressive ease.

He platoons with starting fullback Mathieu Bertrand, catching at least one pass in nearly every game (including one touchdown this season) and adding vital protection to quarterback Ricky Ray.

He has been the long-snapper on punts for the last three games, taking over for Taylor Inglis, missing just one snap due to a wet ball.

FIELD GOALS

He has become the snapper on field goals over the last two games, handling the assignment with remarkable ease under less than ideal circumstances.

Respected kicker Sean Fleming voiced his unhappiness as soon as Maurer took the job from Inglis. Fleming felt Inglis was a better snapper and Maurer was just an emergency fill-in.

But Maurer hasn't missed the target once, with Fleming a perfect four-for-four in two games on field goals.

And the kicker now admits Maurer has exceeded his expectations.

"He has done a great job," said Fleming.

"He certainly shows a lot better in games than he does in practice."

And maybe most impressively this year, Maurer is tied for the league lead in special teams tackles, although he's now drawing double-team coverage down the field after snapping on punts.

"It is like a running version of Pong all the way down the field," cracked Maurer, referring to the hits he takes from all directions during the double-team coverage.

But he's thankful he's playing the game, instead of working another full-time job outside of the game.

"And I always try to plug (Paul's) name," said Maurer.

"I talk to him to this day (in Vancouver) and he's asking: 'Do you ever thank me in the papers?'"

Consider that job done.


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