New Ticat is unproven

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

From the hype, you'd think it was a monstrous oversight that not one NFL team latched on to Jesse Lumsden.

It seems to be the Hamilton Tiger-Cats great good fortune that Lumsden will sign a two-year-deal with the team soon, perhaps Monday, and will begin working out with the club now.

After all, Lumsden may have been the best player to ever play Canadian University football. His 1,816 yards in one season and 47 career touchdowns are CIS standards.

He's 6-foot-2, 232 pounds, with excellent speed and a football pedigree. Lumsden was so good, so dominant for McMaster, the NFL seemed the only place for him to showcase his skills.

But the Jesse-Lumsden-is-good-enough-for-the-NFL train has gone off the tracks.

That, in itself, is no indictment of Lumsden.

A BIG LEAP

Nearly no one makes the jump from CIS football and the NFL.

Mike Schad went from Queens to the Los Angeles Rams and then the Philadelphia Eagles. Israel Idonije, a product of the University of Manitoba, is now playing for the Chicago Bears.

Those two are notable exceptions.

The few Canadians who will play in the league this year, say defensive back O.J. Atogwe of Windsor in St. Louis and the Patriot's Nick Kaczur (Brantford), played college ball stateside.

It makes sense. When you consider the wide disparity in talent, facilities and commitment between Mac and such weak sisters as the University of Toronto, Lumsden would have been better challenged on some Saturdays had he ran through knee-high grass.

Canadian kids flock to U.S. schools for the same reason American kids invest their hopes in major junior hockey up here. It's better, truer competition and the best way to apprentice for a professional career.

But consider the facts.

Lumsden was not among the 28 running backs invited to the NFL scouting combine nor the nearly 100 on the list.

Lumsden did play credibly in the East-West Shrine Game but he was not drafted by any NFL team. He was cut by the Seattle Seahawks after garnering next-to-no work.

I think he was right to try the NFL. Why not measure yourself against the best? But some pretty smart guys have decided that for right now, Lumsden doesn't have the background or the skills necessary for the NFL.

But the fact that he is a mass of nicely tattooed marketability has pushed expectations of his abilities past any reasonable limit.

Jesse Lumsden is not the second coming of anyone.

He could be in the lineup for the Tiger-Cats Sept. 17 home date against Calgary.

"He will be in competition with Troy Davis and Troy Davis is our starting tailback," said Tiger-Cats coach Greg Marshall. "He will learn and develop. Like any new player he'll have to earn it."

What's to earn? Davis is coming off a 1,600-yard campaign. Twice he ran for 2,000 yards at Iowa State and he remains one of the CFL's premier backs. Is Jesse Lumsden going to beat out Troy Davis? Not likely.

When he signs, Toronto product Dahrran Diedrick will have much more impact with the Edmonton Eskimos than Lumsden will have with the Tiger-Cats. Diedrick spent a year in NFL Europe and plied his wares with three different NFL teams. He is action ready.

Lumsden may never be ready and, yes, it would be wonderful if he was. The CFL could use a homegrown draw at a marquee position and reuniting Lumsden with Marshall, his university coach, would make for a nice story.

But it's silly to expect Jesse Lumsden to step in as an impact player. It's probably foolish to expect it at all.


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