HAMILTON - Coming off one of his finest seasons in the CFL, Tiger-Cats receiver Dave Stala thinks he can accomplish more in 2011.
Though born in Poland, Stala was brought to Hamilton as a child and qualifies as a non-import player in the CFL. Last season — his second with the Ticats — Stala finished runner up to Saskatchewan’s Andy Fantuz as the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian.
Stala caught 85 passes for 1,015 yards — second on his team to Arland Bruce III — and six touchdowns, his highest total in seven pro seasons. Stala, whose Ticats open their 2011 campaign against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Friday at Ivor Wynne Stadium, hopes to expand on those numbers again.
“We all set goals and I’m going to strive to be the best,” said Stala Tuesday. “If (quarterback) Kevin (Glenn) gets me the ball, the wins will come. All the accolades come after that.”
For the first time in his career Stala heads into the season with a strong case as the league’s top Canadian receiver. Last year’s top Canadian, Fantuz, will spend 2011 auditioning for a spot with the NFL’s Chicago Bears while Ben Cahoon, an all-time great for the Montreal Alouettes, retired after winning his third Grey Cup last fall.
But Stala said he wants to be the best regardless of his nationality.
“I’m a guy who makes plays out there and that’s how I think,” said Stala. “I think I’m the best receiver.”
Stala emerged last year as a primary target for Glenn and after five seasons playing with the Alouettes.
“We’ve been together for a couple years now so we were preparing and executing plays from day one in camp,” said Stala. “We’re a lot better off this year and I think we’re going to be a very explosive offence.”
The Ticats have one of the better receiving units in the CFL. Bruce has been a star in the league for years and guys like Maurice Mann and rookie Aaron Kelly have been untouchable in camp. But Stala is confident the ball will be thrown his way a lot, too.
“I know (Glenn’s) going to get the ball to me,” said Stala. “The plays are called the way they are and it depends on how the defence is played.”
Head coach Marcel Bellefeuille expects more of the same from his home-grown standout and hopes to see him celebrating a few more touchdowns.
“The balls will come his way and the numbers will mount as long as he’s on the field playing the way he’s capable of playing,” said Bellefeuille. “Hopefully we can use him a bit more down in the score zone where he’s going to end up with some catches and get in the end zone for us.”
Many of Stala’s touchdowns last season were capped off with some fancy footwork in the end zone. He became known for his soccer-style celebrations, treating the football like a hacky-sack before punting it into the crowd and sometimes sending it out of the stadium.
Stala said Ticats fans can expect more of the same when the season kicks off on Canada Day.
“I’ve got to get into the end zone and then you guys can see what I’ve got,” said Stala hinting there’s more where that came from.
“I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve.”