Sandy Annunziata wasn't too thrilled after getting word he'd been traded. The only thing that made the news at all palatable was the fact that he was being dealt to the Edmonton Eskimos.
"My wife (Elissa) hasn't stopped crying," said Annunziata after yesterday's trade was announced, bringing the offensive lineman to the Esks from the Toronto Argonauts in exchange for future considerations.
Already the father of two young girls, Annunziata and his wife are expecting their third child in August.
While the Esks wouldn't exactly come out and anoint Annunziata as the starter to replace the departed Dan Comiskey or the suddenly retired Tim Prinsen, the acquisition of a veteran offensive lineman was clearly a top priority for the club.
"I think Sandy was a big part of Toronto's success along the O-line last year," said Eskimos offensive line coach Bill Macdermott.
"He's a powerful guy. I think he might be better at centre or he can play either guard."
The nine-year pro was born in Fort Erie, won a Vanier Cup title with the University of Western Ontario Mustangs in 1989 and had already turned a number of young fans in the Niagara region into Argo supporters through his anti-bullying program.
ONLY TEAM ON HIS LIST
Still, if he had to go anywhere, Edmonton was the only team on his list.
"I was a little disappointed and a little sad, but if there was one team that I was glad they did the deal with it was Edmonton because it is a class organization," said Annunziata as he wrapped up his 43rd visit with students.
"I've talked to about 16,000 kids spouting the Argo line and that they should watch and cheer for the Argos so this is kind of weird.''
But the newest Esk is also a former Esk, spending seven games with the team in 1995, so he's got an idea on how to handle the last 10 visits with youngsters.
OLD ROOKIE CARDS
"I've still got my Eskimo cards, so I'm going to break out the old rookie cards and hand them out," chuckled the six-foot-three, 295-pounder.
"I just want to gain the respect of my new teammates. The trademark of my career has been working really hard and that is not going to change. I don't know if my hard work will land me the starting job, but all I want to do is help the team win a Grey Cup.
"My first taste of pro football was playing in front of 50,000 at Commonwealth Stadium and from then on whatever has happened, I knew I'd made the right choice for my career."
Annunziata spent the 1997-98 seasons in Winnipeg before joining the Argos in 1999.
He was an Eastern all-star in 2002 and the Argos' nominee for the Outstanding Lineman award. Leaving the defending champs will be a difficult separation for Annunziata.
"Winning a Grey Cup together has really solidified this group and a lot of friendships have grown out of that, so leaving that is going to be tough," he said.
"But when you get into this business, you understand it's the nature of the beast. It's not personal because they did what they think is going to help the team.
"I'm not saying I agree with it, but trades are a part of it and you accept it and move on.''