St. John recasts image of 'big dumb lineman'

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

Jude St. John and his nearest Toronto Argonaut teammate aren't speaking to each other.

They don't have to.

When Sunday's Canadian Football League East final against the Montreal Alouettes rolls around, the veteran guard and the guy next to him, left tackle Bernard Williams, know exactly what they have to do.

A look, a nod, and that's it.

"We've played beside one another three years now and there's a lot of non-verbal communication," St. John explained. "We just know what the other is going to do."

It is no coincidence the two were named East all-stars in a season when the Argos didn't have a single 1,000-yard rusher. They played a large role in quarterback Damon Allen's career season.

That's saying something, since the 42-year-old grand-father has been around almost since the drop-kick.

From the time he was keeping people off Western Mustangs quarterbacks and blowing open holes for running backs, St. John has lived the anonymity of the offensive lineman. That's the second part of a double whammy. The first is the "big dumb lineman" handle.

"There's a lot people don't see," he chuckled. "So much is going on even five seconds before the ball is snapped. Any given play can be blocked 50 different ways. A D lineman moves six inches and it can totally change what you do. You're constantly making adjustments because they're adjusting to you. It's not a static procedure."

Since St. John was a rookie pro 12 seasons ago, he's noted the increase in defensive linemen's speed and how a D lineman will occasionally drop back into pass coverage to be replaced by a linebacker.

You'd almost think he'd have to put an illegal hold on the fast and powerful blitzers to keep them at bay.

"I've always said I've never held an honest man," St. John laughed.

The defending Grey Cup champion Argos have become fashionable of late and the club sends guys like St. John into the community to teach people a bit about the game.

"I just say I'm just one of the big guys who hits the other big guys," the 314-pounder said.

"But I like to change people's perceptions. They're surprised by the amount of communication and the complexity the position requires. The more they understand it, the more they appreciate what's involved."

What's involved Sunday is St. John, between Williams and eight-year linemate and centre Chad Folk, handling some pretty ornery Montreal defensive meanies, led by Ed Philion and Robert Brown.

"Ed is a perennial all-star and Robert Brown is a guy I consider the most underrated defensive lineman in the league," St. John said. "He's just a great athlete.

"Ed combines strength and quickness. You can work against someone who is just fast, but get somebody who's fast enough to beat you plus quick and strong enough to push you back and you've got your hands full. Ed is one of those."

Montreal has taken some heat this season. The Als lost two of three games to Toronto, including a 49-23 humbling three weeks ago in Montreal. This is the fourth straight time the teams have met in the East final.

"We took it to them last game, but it's not going to happen again," St. John predicted. "They've got a veteran squad and I think it's going to be a real battle.

"It's one of those games that makes football special. It's one game, not a series, and you've got to produce when it matters. It's fun. And they're expecting as many as 45,000 fans (at the game)."

St. John and his linemates might not be able to hear one another in the din. Doesn't matter, though. They're on the same wavelength.


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