Don't feed this Cat any cheese

Ticats Darcy Brown and Maurice Mann (right) celebrate a touchdown in front of Ian Logan of the Blue...

Ticats Darcy Brown and Maurice Mann (right) celebrate a touchdown in front of Ian Logan of the Blue Bombers during the first half of Friday’s season opener. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:41 PM ET

HAMILTON - Maurice Mann is no longer a cheese head.

And it has nothing to do with any allegiance to the Green Bay Packers.

For someone who couldn’t resist the urge to eat any kind of cheese at any time of the day, Mann is cheese-free these days.

Little did Mann realize that a change in diet could lead to so many gains on the gridiron, but a nutritional alteration in part explains the way Hamilton’s third-year receiver stood out in training camp and how he became the Ticats’ most explosive offensive player in last Friday’s season-opening loss to Winnipeg.

The way Mann explains it, a friend of a friend told a friend who in turn told Mann of a dietary test that involves blood analysis.

During the off-season, Mann wanted a more lean body, a type that was more of the track variety, which seemed logical given how much running receivers, especially in three-down football, experience.

“It just sounded so cool,’’ Mann began. “It just sounded like it made too much sense to me and I had to try it.”

In a nutshell, Mann had blood drawn from his system.

The sample would later be sent to a lab where Mann’s toxicities and enzymes levels were broken down.

“It involved all those fancy dancy things,’’ he added. “It was a breakdown of a dietary guideline on how you should be eating weekly for a whole year. It’s crazy. The best thing about it is that I never have a grocery list.”

And it’s worked.

Mann knows what to eat, what’s bad for his system, what to digest before games and believes he’s in the best shape of his professional life.

The sacrifice was eschewing cheese and dairy products.

“I had to switch to rice milk. There’s a pamphlet with all the substitute foods.”

The way Mann explains it, as long as he has access to a kitchen, he knows exactly what to put into his system.

He’s eating well, feels well and has begun this season as well as possible, even though his production came in a loss.

For Mann, this year may finally turn out to be the year where opportunity and preparation collide.

Mann’s physical condition has never been stronger and his football mind has caught up to the receiving attributes that led Hamilton to trade for Mann from Edmonton two years ago.

“What we first saw was a talented player,’’ Ticat head coach Marcel Bellefeuille said of Mann. “That’s why we traded for him. The biggest thing this year is he’s beginning to understand defences. He’s understanding coverages, leverages of DBs, how to release. He’s becoming a complete receiver, but he still has those physical tools to go with it.

“The light’s gone on and he’s starting to see those things.”

In football parlance, Mann normally lines up at the X position on the boundary, but he’s now able to slide inside to slotback.

He’s always had the speed, hands, jumping ability, instinct to make plays, find the ball in the air and run after the catch, but Mann has become more consistent.

Throw in the mental ability to break down defences and you get last week’s performance, a 120-yard night on nine receptions, including one touchdown.

“He never missed a single rep of practice during training camp,’’ Bellefeuille added. “On every play, you saw effort and consistency.”

About the only thing missing in camp was Mann’s eating regimen because he didn’t have a kitchen to cook in, something that was easily rectified once camp broke and Mann settled into his abode.

“It was a good game, but it was nothing special for me,’’ Mann said of opening night. “I still feel I could do more.

“I’ve always considered myself to be a confident receiver. I just haven’t been given all the opportunities I thought I should have had.”

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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