HAMILTON - In Tiger Town, everything old is new again, where old faces, not necessarily measured by the passage of time, are beginning anew their football careers or looking to recharge their pigskin passion.
In the case of Martell Mallett, one of the new kids on the Ticats block who’s been around the football block, the team’s three-day mini-camp is a long-awaited opportunity to reconnect with three-down football and brush up on the game’s nuances that go missing when one ventures to the NFL.
Mallett became a household name in the CFL in his rookie season in B.C., back in 2009, exploding for a 200-yard game and emerging as the league’s top rookie before he took his act to the greener pastures of the NFL.
Whether it was injury, politics, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Mallett would hook up with three franchises, including two stops in Philadelphia, but would never get his moment to showcase his skills in a regular-season game.
When the Ticats came calling this off-season, Mallett jumped at the opportunity, a move that forced Avon Cobourne to ask for his release.
“It feels great,’’ Mallett said on Thursday as yet another high-paced, high-tempo session unfolded at Ivor Wynne Stadium. “I’m back on the field playing professional football.
“I just feel re-freshed. It’s a new start, a new coach, I’m ready to go.”
Like many of his new teammates, Mallett could suit up tomorrow if a game needed to be played, the level of exuberance so high in the Hammer that it’s virtually impossible for this pace to be sustained.
Given it is late April and with so many new faces and new schemes in the Hammer, the mood isn’t surprising.
On May 13, Mallett turns 26, but his body is more of a player three years younger, his body taut, his explosive feet visible for all to see and his much-coveted all-around skills out of the backfield perfectly suited to what rookie head coach George Cortez wants to run on offence.
While he’s had only two days to absorb some of the offensive philosophy and schemes, Mallett has the luxury of being familiar with parts of the playbook.
When he played with the Lions, B.C. took a page from the Cortez book when he served as offensive co-ordinator in Calgary.
During his stop with the Eagles, Mallett played in a system where Philly’s running backs would also be used as receivers.
“There are some similarities,’’ Mallett confided. “What’s different is the terminology, but I’m picking that up nicely.”
What he’s also picking up is the unlimited motion afforded in the CFL.
“For a running back, that’s all the good stuff,’’ he smiled. “In the CFL, you never get called for false starts. It’s fun to get back in the groove of things and learning the rules again.
“They’re all in my head, but I’ve got to get them to come back to me. It’s why this mini-camp is so important.”
Mallett will wear jersey No. 8, the same number Marcus Thigpen sported before this off-season’s move to Miami.
In high school, Mallett had an affinity for the number seven and took number eight in college.
“It was a step up, going from high school to college, so why not take number eight?’’ he reasoned. “And it looks good.”
Having grown up in Arkansas, Mallett remains friends with Hawks all-star guard Joe Johnson, whom Mallett watched in person when Atlanta visited Toronto earlier this week.
Derek Fisher, who won five NBA titles riding shot gun with Kobe Bryant in L.A., also hails from Arkansas.
“Both those guys have done quite well,’’ Mallett said.
While the CFL stage is not exactly in the same rank as the NBA, Mallett now has a chance to leave his mark.