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PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- They are two running backs who are as different as the countries they represent.

Troy Davis is an American who developed his skills in the U.S. and became one of the most celebrated runners in the history of the NCAA.

Eric Lapointe is a Canadian, who developed his skills in Canada and became one of the most celebrated runners in the history of the CIS.

They have never played on the same team, although they both spent time with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Edmonton Eskimos.

Their paths will collide tomorrow -- albeit not on the field at the same time -- when Edmonton and the Montreal Alouettes play in the 93rd edition of the Grey Cup at B.C. Place.

Davis plays for Edmonton, which acquired him in a controversial deal with Hamilton in October -- a trade which reportedly has some future considerations attached to it that are expected to involve Eskimos' backup quarterback Jason Maas.

Lapointe plays for Montreal, which has featured a predominant passing game since 2002, and usually employs an American as its feature running back.

Lapointe will become one of the few Canadians to line up mainly in a one-back set in the history of the Cup. He is also one of the few -- if not the only -- French Canadians to be the feature running back.

Coincidentally, both players face an uncertain future: Davis is finishing his option year and may become a free agent in February unless Edmonton re-signs him (which is expected to happen).

Lapointe works as both a football player and financial consultant, and the two jobs are taking a toll, which may force him to give up his gridiron gig.

But for one day, they will share the spotlight in their running back roles.

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Davis, a stocky 5-foot-8 individual who packs 183 pounds on his frame, has six gold teeth and a large gold cross that he wears around his neck. It belies the personality of this Miami native, who is flashy on the field but almost introverted off of it. He detests doing interviews and has been known to run away from the media with the same fancy footwork he uses to slip away from opposing tacklers.

The 30-year-old attended Iowa State and became the first individual in the history of the NCAA to rush for 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.

A finalist in the 1995 and '96 the Heisman Trophy voting for the outstanding U.S. collegiate player, Davis spent three seasons in the NFL with New Orleans Saints, who drafted him in 1997.

Signed by Hamilton in June of 2001, he became the full-time starter in 2002 and led the CFL in rushing with 1,628 yards.

Davis came into this campaign looking forward building on the Ticats' nine-win season under rookie head coach Greg Marshall, following a year in which Hamilton won just one of 18 games.

But Hamilton struggled, in particular on offence, and Davis became a forgotten man.

Combined with the fact he was attempting to negotiate a new contract -- he is earning some $80,000 this season and reportedly wanted close to $120,000 a season -- Davis appeared to be unhappy on and off the field.

Then came the stunning deal in October in which the Tiger-Cats sent him and offensive lineman Dan Comiskey to Edmonton for unheralded rookie defensive back Tay Cody, receiver Brock Ralph and a first-round pick in next year's draft of Canadian players.

Stories have surfaced recently that the deal included future considerations, including a subsequent transaction with Edmonton that would send quarterback Jason Maas to Hamilton for quarterback Danny McManus, offensive lineman Tim Bakker and a first-round pick in next year's draft.

But in the absence of that transaction, the Tiger-Cats essentially parted with one of their best players for far below market value.

"Yes, it was a shock. It was a shock to everybody who watches the CFL," Davis said this week of his trade to Edmonton. "You get rid of your best running back for like nothing. I didn't look at it like it was a stupid trade. That's the business.

"You ship somebody in and you ship old people out. They couldn't afford to pay for me, so (it was like) 'let's just go out and trade him and let the other team deal with it.' I guess that's what Hamilton did."

Davis is enjoying his time with his new team.

"Edmonton is a big program. They do everything first class," he said. "It's like: 'This is a business. This is how we're going to dress. This is how you're going to act.' I'm not going to put Hamilton down because I was there for five years, but Edmonton is more classy."

Davis politely declined interviews after his successful debut for Edmonton, but in the national stage this week he has been obliging.

"If people think that since I don't talk I must be an a--hole, it's not that," he said. "All my business shows on the field. This is what I do. It's what speaks for me. I just don't like to be there for the cameras.

"I'm happy to be (with Edmonton). I'm happy the trade happened. It ain't no CFL until you make it to the Grey Cup. That's what you work all year long for -- for a game like this.

"I haven't been in a big game since 1993, when (his high school team) played for the state championship. I went to college, didn't see no bowl games, went to the NFL (and) didn't see a Super Bowl, so this is a big Grey Cup for me now."

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Lapointe is a Montreal native who stands about 6-foot-1 and weighs 205 pounds. He is a graduate of Mount Allison University and a two-time winner of the Hec Creighton Trophy as the outstanding player in Canadian college football. In 1996 he set a Canadian university record with 1,619 rushing yards.

Selected in the third round of the 1999 Canadian draft by Edmonton, Lapointe didn't figure to be a starter at the professional level because Canadian running backs normally are relegated to backup roles behind Americans, who are deemed to be more skilled.

The Eskimos cut Lapointe -- coincidentally the coach at the time happened to be Don Matthews, his current head coach -- and the Tiger-Cats signed him. Lapointe started only two games, but finished 11th in the league with 691 rushing yards.

The following year, he was dealt to Toronto in a multiple-player deal because the Argos managing director at the time, J.I. Albrecht, thought Lapointe could be a star.

But Lapointe languished behind a virtually unknown rookie American, Michael Jenkins, who stepped into the starting role. Lapointe left the Argos as a free agent in the 2001 off-season to play closer to home in Montreal and work in the financial services industry.

He has served mainly as backup for the Als, but is starting in the Grey Cup game tomorrow because celebrated American running back Robert Edwards, a former first-round pick in the NFL, cracked two ribs early in last Sunday's East Division win over the Argos.

Lapointe stepped in and scored three touchdowns while racking up 112 rushing yards.

"In my seven-year career I've seen so many things that now I just want to be on that field (tomorrow)," he said. "There have been some bad moments in my career, but if I look back there's nothing I would change. It started in a really strange way by being cut in Edmonton, but I've been hoping to play for five years and it's been seven now. I'm just a happy man. In life you don't always get what you want, but you make the best of every situation. This year they asked me to be a leader on special teams and that's what I did.

"I was having a great time before I had a chance to step on the field as a running back. I just wanted to have the respect of my teammates. I think that's what I got over the years and that's enough, too."

THE DEAL WITH ... ERIC LAPOINTE

A look at the starting running back for the Montreal Alouettes:

CFL Experience: 7

College: Mount Allison

Birthdate: Aug. 13, 1974

Birthplace: Montreal

Drafted: Selected by the Edmonton Eskimos (3rd round -- 20th overall) in the 1999 CFL Draft

Acquired: Free agent (February 2001)

Status: Non-import

2005 yards: 423

2005 TDs: 3

Notable: Lapointe won the Hec Creighton Trophy in 1996 and 1998

THE DEAL WITH ... TROY DAVIS

A look at the starting running back for the Edmonton Eskimos:

- CFL Experience: 5

- College: Iowa St.

- Birthdate: Sept. 14, 1975

- Birthplace: Miami, Fla.

- Drafted: Selected by the New Orleans Saints (3rd round -- 62nd overall) in the 1997 NFL Draft.

- Acquired: Trade with Hamilton (October 2005)

- Status: Import

- 2005 yards: 1,151

- 2005 TDs: 5

- Notable: Davis was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 1995 and 1996


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