Ticats make Eiben feel like kid again

Frank Zicarelli, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 6:05 PM ET

HAMILTON - On Kevin Eiben’s first day as a Ticat, it wasn’t until he arrived at Ivor Wynne and began to absorb himself in his new surroundings that the moment hit him.

It was a moment Eiben couldn’t put into words to describe what he felt, only that he knew something was different, something new that provided a spark of excitement only a new beginning can create.

For those who have followed Eiben’s career as an Argo, the sight of watching Eiben line up on defence wearing the black and gold was strange, to say the least.

For more than a decade, Eiben represented all that was good about three-down football, sacrificing his body on the field, devoting his time away from the gridiron to promote community and the CFL.

While he still embodies the same endearing traits, he’s no longer an Argo, a realization that struck home when he ventured to his new home in the Hammer.

For 11 years in Double Blue, every trip as a member of the visiting team would be greeted by the predictable catcalls among the Ticat faithful, every tussle in Tiger Town involving hits after the whistle and the occasional scrap.

On Wednesday, the dawn of Kevin Eiben’s days as a Ticat would be ushered in as the first day of a three-day mini-camp was staged at Ivor Wynne Stadium, which will be torn down following this season and re-born, much like Eiben’s path to Steeltown.

No matter what gets said, no matter how the public posturing plays out, any team can use a player of Eiben’s status and skills.

The Argos chose to go in a different direction, which opened the door for the Ticats to sign Eiben this off-season as a free agent.

It’s hard to glean much on one day, but Eiben looked like he was in the best shape of his life, was flying around like every member of his new team and had that look of a veteran bent on proving the Argos wrong.

To his credit, Eiben never uttered a disparaging word about his former team, the only team he’s ever known from the time Toronto drafted Eiben 11 years ago.

A pillar at linebacker, Eiben would end his days in Argoland last season when a pectoral injury ended his year, a setback that would ultimately end his run in Toronto.

“It was definitely a different experience when I first came in,’’ Eiben said of Wednesday. “When I saw the locker room, when I put on that sweater, seeing different meeting rooms, I soon realized it was a new chapter.

“I’m excited and I’m going to embrace the opportunity.”

Given it is only a mini-camp setting, it’s way too early in the process to see where Eiben fits into the Ticat puzzle.

On paper, the Ticats are deep at linebacker, but a player such as Eiben, a non-import, frees up so much if it’s deemed that Eiben is worthy to be a starter.

One thing is certain: Eiben is starting over and is approaching his new beginning with open arms and eyes open.

“I don’t have many years left,’’ Eiben, who turns 32 this fall, said. “My goal is to add more rings, to be the champions at the end of the season.”

On his first day as a Ticat, Eiben, once the formalities of familiarizing himself with his new surroundings were completed, got a chance to spend time with Henry Burris and Andy Fantuz, two of Hamilton’s biggest off-season acquisitions whom Eiben has known only as an opponent.

“Now I get a chance to know them as a person, outside of football,’’ Eiben said. “It’s now time to start building a relationship.

“It’s going to be a great season and I’m excited. Not many people are fortunate to play this game.”

Once the Ticats finished their on-field work, Eiben walked toward a media gathering and flashed a smile that was priceless.

“It feels like I’m back in Grade 1,’’ he added. “It feels like I’m starting elementary school or high school. It’s all fun and I’m enjoying it”

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca

 


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