At the start of training camp, Keaton Cromartie was on the outside looking in, needing the performance of his life to keep a spot on the Renegades.
He did it.
And now the veteran Renegades stalwart will begin the 2005 season as the starting middle linebacker, taking over one of the most important positions on the defence.
In effect, he'll be the "quarterback" on defence.
"We're rewarding him," said Renegades coach and GM Joe Paopao following yesterday's rundown at Frank Clair Stadium.
Cromartie faced tough competition during camp on the defensive line from new players and younger returnees.
But his hard work forced the coaching staff to give him a spot on the 40-man roster.
"He's a full-speed, effort guy that works hard all the time, and that's one of the things that caught my eye about Keaton at the camp," said defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall.
"He was in a position where we had a lot of guys stacked up, and he didn't let it bother him. He just came and worked hard every day."
A RUSH FOR ELLIS
The Renegades believe that Cromartie, beginning his fourth season in Ottawa, will carry that work ethic onto the field and move his 6-foot-2, 245-lb. frame around to make hits.
The 30-year-old native of Bradenton, Fla., had been listed on the left edge of the defensive line on the training camp depth chart, but the team will start with second-year project Kai Ellis, a 6-foot-4, 255-lb. giant from Washington who the Renegades hope will turn into one of the league's top pass rushers.
"They both have good size, they're both athletic guys and they both run well, whether they'll be rushing or dropping into coverage," said Marshall.
"We just like the flexibility they give us as far as some of the things we'd like to do this year."
Cromartie views the switch to linebacker as a challenge, but it's nothing new for him.
At the start of last year, he also got some time at the middle linebacker spot in Gary Etcheverry's defensive scheme, and he played the position during his first three seasons of collegiate ball at Tulane.
"I'm looking forward to it," said Cromartie, one of only nine players remaining on the Renegades roster from the inaugural 2002 season.
LOOKING TO MAKE 'BIG HITS'
"On the line, you can do things like make sacks and things like that, but you can make some big hits at linebacker."
The Renegades plan to move Cromartie around, and could put him on the line in certain situations.
Ottawa native Jason Kralt will be Cromartie's stand-in at middle linebacker during those situations, or if he gets hurt.
"I'm just here to do whatever they tell me to do," said Kralt who serves in the military when he isn't playing football.
"The bottom line is that we need to win games, and that's what I'm hoping to help this team do."
FRANKLY SPEAKING: WR Frank Cutolo arrived in Ottawa and watched yesterday's rundown. The Renegades claimed the former B.C. Lions catcher off waivers and plan to add his to the roster later this week -- if a spot can be found. "I'm taking this opportunity, and I'm going to run with it," said the native of Boca Raton, Fla., who used to compete against Renegades DB Korey Banks in high school. Cutolo joined the Lions in 2003 and was the Western Division's nominee for the league's rookie of the year. In two years in B.C., he scored three touchdowns in four games against the Renegades, including a 102-yard catch-and-run effort in Vancouver last year.