Homecomin' for Barrenechea

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

It has taken two years for the great Agustin Barrenechea homecoming but it may not have happened in time.

The former University of Calgary Dinos star plays McMahon Stadium as a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for the first time and he's almost completely left his roots behind.

"I feel Hamilton is like home," he said. "I've been there two years.

"I don't feel like I'm just going to Calgary to play at home. I'm just going there to play the Stampeders. It will be great to see family and friends.

"And it will be nice to have old teammates in the stands. But it's the same as going to Saskatchewan and Edmonton now."

Barrenechea is in the midst of his second full season with the Tiger-Cats and his first full one as the starting middle linebacker.

The position is a crucial part of the defence and it's not often CFL teams put a second-year player there.

But Barrenechea is not a normal sophomore. He didn't start playing with the Dinos until he was 21 years old, meaning he was already a mature athlete by the time the Tiger-Cats drafted him in the fourth round, 30th overall in 2003.

The 26-year-old is a key part of the Tiger-Cats defence this season. He sits sixth in the CFL with 63 defensive tackles, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

He didn't play at McMahon Stadium in the Ticats' visit last season because of injury but emerged as the starter last season for the final five games and took the same position in the playoffs against Toronto.

In his first training camp, then Ticats head coach Ron Lancaster sent Barrenechea home. He was devastated but old enough to realize he would get another chance.

Instead of giving up and returning to rugby, which he played for three years following high school at St. Francis, he went back to the Dinos determined to prove he belonged in the CFL.

"Every time you get released, it's frustrating," Barrenechea said. "Coach Lancaster said whatever I did, be sure to keep playing football. That was reassuring.

"When I decided to go back to the University of Calgary, he called me up to say they still wanted me. That was during their losing season."

If there's any consolation for Barrenechea about being rejected initially by the Ticats, it was that they didn't do well without him. Hamilton was 1-17 in 2003, which prompted plenty of changes.

The biggest one for Barrenechea was Canadian Scott Coe signing with the Stampeders, opening a hole in the Ticats linebacking corps.

When Barrenechea met Coe at the 2003 training camp, the Stamps 'backer told him to keep his chin up and wait for an opportunity.

The next year he moved into the fray and doesn't look to be giving up his spot anytime soon.

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BIO BLITZ

LINEBACKER AGUSTIN BARRENECHEA

Born -- May 20, 1979.

Birthplace -- Calgary.

Ht./Wt. -- 6 ft. 2 in., 235 lb.

College -- U of C.

Years in CFL -- 2.

Did you know -- Took three years off to play rugby ... Father Peter played with Argentina's rugby team.


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