Levingston says he can do much more

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

The quiet tug of war between Bashir Levingston and Pinball Clemons already has begun. At issue is just how special Levingston happens to be.

Clemons, the Argos coach, wants to keep it that way -- as in Levingston on special teams. Levingston, the record-breaking return man, wants the ball, now, more often and with more vigor than ever before.

"I could go to any team in the league, do this, and play another position," said Levingston, the best Toronto athlete nobody talks about, two days before the Argos season opener. "For me not to go in on offence over 18 games, I don't like that.

"(Jason) Armstead gets the ball (in Ottawa). (Ezra) Landry gets the ball sometimes in Montreal. Winston October gets the ball in Edmonton. I'm the only one (in the Canadian Football League) who never gets the ball. I'm the only one who never plays another position.

"If you threw me the ball and I dropped it, I'd understand. All I'm saying is, give me three plays a game. Three plays. I'm not asking for 50 plays. Just something that says we think more of you than this."

Pinball Clemons thinks so much of Levingston that he believes that less is more. This has been their dance of discomfort for parts of the past three seasons. Clemons adores Levingston's capabilities, calling him the best "special teams guy since Gizmo Williams." Typically, Levingston is athletically impatient: In his own mind, his capabilities outweigh his magnificent accomplishments.

Levingston will speak his peace to an inquiring newspaperman but will say nothing to his head coach about his desire to be more involved. "I just have to give him the look," said Clemons," who is more than Levingston's football coach. "And he knows, he knows where I'm coming from."

The two understand each other implicitly, only on this point they don't happen to agree. And you can't help but wonder if Clemens the player would have thought differently about it than Clemens the coach.

"If you tell me I'm a return man and nothing more, I'll tell you you are wrong," said Levingston. "I know teams kick away from me now. That's a sign of respect, and as a team guy you're supposed to say that's good for the team. It doesn't mean I have to like it."

In the wondrous Grey Cup victory over B.C. last November, the Lions chose to kick away from Levingston. He could have been voted the MVD award -- the Most Valuable Decoy.

Last season, while October has his hands on the ball 145 times as an Edmonton return man, Levingston scored his five touchdowns on just 68 returns. He may not even see the ball that often as a new season begins.

So for now, he works in practice as a backup defensive back, works occasionally as a backup receiver, and understands he will used to return punts and kickoffs and field goals, when they're missed.

"I don't just believe he's the best special team player in the league. I'm going to demand it," said Clemens. "Bashir can play offence for us and be very good and he can play defence for us and be very good...

"But sometimes, in doing more, you do less. The more you learn about him, the less capable he is in areas that can benefit us the most."

Levingston scored five touchdowns last season, five touchdowns the year before, five on punt returns, three on kickoff returns, two on missed field goals.

The most Gizmo Williams ever scored over a two-season period was eight. Williams, for the record, caught passes in his prime. Sometimes a few, sometimes a lot. He ran the occasional reverse. He did more than return kicks.

"Bashir is the epitome of the designated import," said Clemons. "He's not just a special teams player. He changes the game. He is the definition of the designated import. Maybe that's not what he wants to be. And when he doesn't, that's when I have to remind him."


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