New 'Gade sacks past

After missing the 2004 CFL season, rush end Ray Jacobs is determined to return to the gridiron...

After missing the 2004 CFL season, rush end Ray Jacobs is determined to return to the gridiron better than ever this year. (Ottawa Sun/Sean Kilpatrick)

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:45 AM ET

KEMPTVILLE -- In Ray Jacobs, the Renegades have one of the best kabaddi players in the country.

They also have a guy who could very well challenge for the CFL sack title.

Jacobs devoted his time to God and earning MVP status in kabaddi -- an Asian sport which sounds a little like British Bulldog, with wrestling and chanting thrown into the mix -- after he was cut by B.C. Lions coach Wally Buono on the final day of camp last year.

The release came following Jacobs' arrest -- near a Surrey, B.C. crack house, with cocaine in his car and prostitutes in his company -- although the charges were later dropped.

Yesterday, during his second on-field practice in a Renegades jersey No. 53, the 6-foot-2, 245-lb. rush end showed rookie offensive tackle Marc Parenteau the technique he used to become a West Division all-star two years ago. Then he announced his intentions for 2005.

"Most definitely, I think I can come back and be better," said Jacobs, 32. "Because of the training I put in during the offseason. I didn't sit around and feel sorry for myself, I still worked hard. I'm not one of those guys who is going to quit. If I was going to do that, then I would have probably not been here today."

Jacobs, who spent four years in Calgary and one in Saskatchewan before recording 10 sacks in 13 games with the Lions, admits to making a mistake in B.C. He also refuses to dwell on it.

'I'M NOT PERFECT'

"I had a good chance to self-reflect, do some self-maintenance," he said of his time off. "Spiritual things. I realized that I'm not perfect. The event that came on, I put myself in the situation and I was the one to blame.

"As a result, I had things taken away from me ... so, I got God on my side. I grew up in the church, and I got away from it a little bit, but now I'm back in, as strong as ever."

At the urging of friends, he took up kabaddi and wound up making $500 a tournament -- for starters.

"It helped put some money in my pocket, and that was really exciting," said Jacobs, who describes kabaddi as "an East Indian sport, kind of like rugby without the football" and offers a chance for the participants to win extra cash on side bets made by the fans.

"I actually got pretty good at it and ended up taking home a trophy at the end of the year. A most valuable player trophy."

New Renegades defensive line coach Richard Harris, who had the North Carolinian in B.C. and is a big part of the reason the player is now with Ottawa, says Jacobs is also an OYM: Outstanding Young Man.

"If one of my daughters told me they had met him, I wouldn't have any problem with that," said Harris. "That says a lot, because I love my daughters.

"I loved him as a man before I loved him as a ball player," he added. "Now that he's back, I know for a fact he worked his butt off the entire time. He's chiseled. His cardiovascular is really good, his system is totally clear.

"He understands what sobriety is all about now and that people depend on him," continued Harris, then adding, with a laugh, "and that if he lets me down I'm gonna kill him.

"He understands that if he loses me as a friend, he's lost me forever. With the guidance he's had ... we'll see a great ball player in him this season."

Meanwhile, Jacobs is even savouring camp now.

"It feels wonderful," he said. "You don't realize how much you miss the game until you're away from it. Just to be back in the camaraderie.

"I did all the right things when I was out, my body is coming back stronger and faster. For the first three days, I feel great. The mental things are coming together very well, and I'm looking forward to having a great year."


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