Palmer simply irresistible

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

Michael Palmer shouldn't have been around to haul in the winning touchdown Saturday as the Argonauts beat Saskatchewan 27-26.

Forget about the end zone ... he shouldn't have been in the league.

Palmer's dad, Peter, played in the CFL and even saw a little time as an Argo but Michael, who grew up in Burlington, was supposed to be a hockey player.

He played both football and hockey, but in Grade 10 he found himself unable to juggle both sports.

"I chose hockey," Palmer said, and he played no more football in his final three years of high school.

But Palmer's hockey career went south when he realized the American Christian college he had chosen in Michigan emphasized theology and religious training over athletics.

"I didn't see a future for myself there," he said. "I didn't know what to do. I put my head together with my parents. Mom knew people at Guelph."

Palmer walked on for the Gryphons.

Imagine that for a second.

He hadn't played a down of football in three years when he slid on the pads.

"I played special teams my first year," he said.

"The next year I came back as a starter at receiver and started tearing it up."

By the time he was done, Palmer was a two-time OUA first-team all-star.

The Argos, mindful of the need for depth in the receiving corps, chose him in the sixth round of the 2003 Canadian university draft.

He caught just six passes in his first season and 15 in the second.

But the 24-year-old Palmer made himself known in other ways.

"When we go to B.C. and go to get on the bus for the hotel, he'll be the last guy," Argos coach Michael Clemons said. "The world just sort of co-exists around him. He's happy-go-lucky, oblivious to the rest of the world. That's the way he is to the game. Nothing bothers him. He's in the zone and he's doing his thing."

"Because I'm a backup, I have to be very thorough in my preparation," Palmer said. "I'm laid back but I'm very committed to what I'm doing. I try to study for the game the way an offensive co-ordinator would."

Robert Baker's suspension for punching kicker Noel Prefontaine prompted the Argos to move Andre Talbot to the slotback position for the Saskatchewan game. That put Palmer in at one of the receiver slots.

He struggled through the first 59 minutes of Saturday's game.

"In practice, you don't really hit that much. You get in a game and people are trying to take other people's heads off," he said. "It's a real step up."

He fell on a couple of routes and had only one ball thrown in his direction.

Then came the highlight of Michael Palmer's career. Ball on the Saskatchewan three-yard line with just half a minute left to play.

"I knew they were sending the blitz and I knew it was just me and my man and I had to beat him," Palmer said. "So I set him up for the out and I faked the out and ran the in. Damon threw a perfect ball. He had to throw it under the field goal bar so I went down and got it."

And just like that, Michael Palmer's life changed. There were post-game interviews with the same reporters who usually only stopped Palmer for directions to Damon Allen's locker.

Fourteen congratulatory messages awaited him on his answering machine.

But Baker is back and things are returning back to normal for Palmer.

There is one difference.

Now he's had a taste of it.

"I'm never going to stop working. Every route I run in practice, I run it hard," he said.

"The sky's the limit for Michael Palmer."


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