Als in town: Cue the highlight reel

Alouettes wide receiver Jamel Richardson catches a touchdown pass in front of Tiger-Cats defensive...

Alouettes wide receiver Jamel Richardson catches a touchdown pass in front of Tiger-Cats defensive back Carlos Thomas during their game last week. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:35 PM ET

TORONTO - Every time Jamel Richardson cuts, reaches with his long arms and makes a catch, you have to sit and wonder: Why isn’t a receiver with his hands, his size, his speed, playing in the National Football League?

And every time S.J. Green makes one of those highlight reel stabs, the kind of athletic, circus, how-did-he-do-that grab that ESPN would drool over, you wonder the same: How did the NFL miss on Green?

And here they are, the largest, most athletic, most talented slot receivers on the same team in Canadian Football League history — with apologies to Milt Stegall and Geroy Simon — and they have the benefit of catching footballs from Anthony Calvillo, the quarterback who is shattering all the records.

Sometimes, life stinks if you’re the Toronto Argonauts. You’ve lost four games in a row. You can’t decide between Cleo Lemon and Dalton Bell as your starting quarterback, which is a lot like giving your child a choice between cauliflower and broccoli and expecting him to be happy. And what do you get in Game 6 of the season? The Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes, having lost two games in a row, in that kind of mood, with the legendary quarterback throwing to the two most explosive receivers East of Fred Stamps.

Two guys who are only in the CFL — as with most American players in the league — because of opportunity and circumstance.

Jamel Richardson was one of those can’t-miss kids when he came out of Corcoran High School in Syracuse. Everybody wanted a piece of him. The big schools asked about him but he settled on Michigan State as his university of choice.

Only he never got there.

There was some kind of problem with his SAT scores and the university. Either the scores didn’t come in on time or they weren’t high enough. And this from a school that accepts just about anybody with a pulse. Other people, other schools, reached out to Richardson. He thought he had a shot at going to Massachusetts. That didn’t work out either. In the end, the very tall and talented Richardson wound up at Victor Valley College, someplace in California, whose schedule includes Saddleback College and College of the Desert; football factories these are not.

Richardson’s coach at Victor Valley knew Roy Shivers, who was running the Saskatchewan Roughriders at the time, so Jamel left junior college after two years to turn pro in Regina. His route to Montreal was hardly predictable — but in three seasons plus with the Alouettes, he has caught 309 passes, scored 36 touchdowns, all that coming after four seasons in Saskatchewan scoring all of four touchdowns.

The Montreal years came to be after he was cut by the Dallas Cowboys, a team that already had Terrell Owens, Miles Austin, Terry Glenn and Sam Hurd at receiver.

“I felt I could beat one of them out,” said Richardson. But it didn’t happen, leading to a year out of football and his amazing arrival in Montreal.

The story is different for S.J. Green, the late bloomer. He hoped to get drafted by the NFL in 2007 and it didn’t happen. He came to Montreal and learned for a couple of years, playing behind Ben Cahoon. Then he got an NFL shot. A brief one. He signed with the New York Jets and basically lasted one practice. He ran for some teams this past off-season. Andy Fantuz and Emmanuel Arceneaux got contracts. He didn’t. Football doesn’t always make sense in the big picture.

When asked why Richardson and Green aren’t in the NFL, Als’ head coach Marc Trestman said: “I have no comment on that.” When asked why he had no comment, he again had no comment.

Green is still young enough to have visions of playing in the NFL. Richardson has let that ship sail. But the two love their place, their relationship, their friendship, their team, the very competition that pushes them every day.

“We’re very close,” said Green. “We hang out, Watch film together. We’re like brothers.”

It was different for Richardson at first. He saw Green as competition. He had to size him up. Now he says they’re like brothers. “I’m the big brother,” said Richardson, “he’s the little brother.

“We compete on everything. Yards per game. Catches. Touchdowns. You name it, we compete for it.”

And both claim to be the better blocker, while neither claims to be the better receiver. “I run after the catch a little more than him,” said Richardson. “He goes up over guys, makes that spectacular catch. He’s got the edge on me for that. And we’re both vicious blockers.”

The Argos will understand that Thursday night. They were beaten 40-17 the first time they played the Als. The trio in Montreal, with Calvillo throwing, Richardson and Green catching, is as good as it’s ever been for any CFL team.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/simmonssteve


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