Cobourne a veteran influence for Ticats

Tiger-Cats running back Avon Cobourne will step into the starting role with Chevon Walker nursing...

Tiger-Cats running back Avon Cobourne will step into the starting role with Chevon Walker nursing an injury. (QMI Agency/files)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:12 PM ET

The mood on Monday in Tiger Town had a different buzz, a feel that can’t be properly documented, an aura only a veteran such as Avon Cobourne could possibly create.

“It was fiery,” the veteran sparkplug confided. “The guys were really animated. Maybe they were excited because I’m playing, but I don’t think so. Guys were flying around and it was fast-paced.”

Whether it was Cobourne’s presence with the first-team offence or whether it was a sense of urgency that naturally surfaces when a team is in desperate need of a win heading out on the road, the roar was palpable.

How it translates into Thursday night’s kickoff against the red-hot Als in Montreal, no one can say with certainty, but the Ticats seem poised to at least play their best when their best hasn’t been summoned for a complete game in back-to-back losses to Calgary and Winnipeg.

With all due respect to Chevon Walker, the lightning-quick, big-play rookie tailback, all the speed in the world cannot compensate for the intangibles a player such as Cobourne will bring to the field.

As fate will have it, Cobourne will make his return against a team he once helped lead to multiple Grey Cup titles, along the way earning a reputation as a big-game player who will spout off his mouth as quickly as he’ll embrace a challenge.

If all goes according to plan and Cobourne is able to pick up where he left off last season, maybe the Ticats will be in that enviable position of having too much of a good thing, which isn’t always such a big thing in a marathon season that is the CFL.

With Walker nursing an undisclosed lower body injury, he was last seen on the playing field riding a stationary bike along the sideline during last week’s bitterly disappointing loss in Winnipeg, the door has swung open for Cobourne to enter.

“He definitely brings a unique view point when we’re practising,” head coach George Cortez said of Cobourne. “On the scout punt rush team, he’ll be yelling: ‘I blocked another one.’

“And he’s not even within 10 yards of the punter most of the time. He livens things up.”

More than anything, the reeling Ticats need a shot in the arm, an infusion of confidence — a swagger if you will — an edge to their game Cobourne is more than capable of filling.

He’ll get in an opponent’s face, he’s unafraid to challenge a teammate and is more than willing to demand the ball when a play is made.

Given his role as backup to Walker, Cobourne didn’t have the cache to voice his opinion, which is understandable when one does not play and is reduced to running plays on scout teams.

But Cobourne can now be himself, a character with character who will lead and who admittedly has been humbled since he made his way back to the Hammer in training camp, a chain of events that began with the season-ending Achilles injury to Martell Mallett.

“You think you’re going to do something and you don’t get the opportunity,” added Cobourne, 33. “It’s a shock to your body, especially when you thought you were supposed to be the guy.

“It was humbling at first — it was humbling, period — but I took it on and I think I did well with it.”

Admittedly, it took Cobourne a few weeks to come to grips with the blunt truth that Walker was the Ticats’ incumbent running back, a kid with immense talents who is nonetheless inexperienced.

To his credit, Cobourne served as Walker’s teacher, trying to show Walker the ropes and this new-found role, while not ideal, was soon embraced.

“Week 1, Week 2, it was tough,” added Cobourne, of playing the role of second-stringer. “I then took it in and tried to be that guy who would help him (Walker) out wherever I could.

“He’s a good football player, but he needs to learn the game more. He hasn’t played a lot. The more reps, the more you can disguise things you like to do and make it hard on the defence as well.”

Whether it was Montreal, Toronto, B.C., whomever, Cobourne is just grateful that he’ll be back on the gridiron.

“I’m just happy to play against anybody,” Cobourne said. “I’ve always said if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready. I’ve been preparing myself for this and I’ll be all right.”

Prior to Monday’s on-field session at Ivor Wynne Stadium, Cortez met with Cobourne to discuss handoff points, one of the game’s subtleties that can lead to issues if any misunderstanding is allowed to fester.

“Some backs prefer one to the other,” said Cortez, who would reference his point by bringing up former Stamps running Joffrey Reynolds, who had a preference. “I asked him (Cobourne) if it mattered and he said not all. You like to fit what guys do best.

“He’s had a good week of practice, knows our offence well, understands the league and understands why you need to run a route wider.”

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca

ARKELLS HAVE A HIT WITH TICATS

HAMILTON — Pigskin Pete, make way for the Arkells.

The Ticats announced on Monday the Hamilton-based band will release a song that will effectively serve as the team’s official anthem.

The single, Ticats are Hummin, will make its debut this Thursday on Y108 with proceeds from downloads to be donated to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hamilton.

According to the team, the song will be heard inside Ivor Wynne Stadium before kickoff and following each win, while the chorus will play after touchdowns.

The tune’s official music video debuts on Labour Day when the Argos come to town on Sept. 3.

 


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