Argos have ties that bind

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

Khalil Carter and Jermaine Mays share a bond that is both personal and professional, unique and unorthodox.

Defensive backs who are both long and athletic, Carter and Mays were traded for each other during this past season in the Arena Football League.

In ways only they can comprehend and relate, the simple transaction went well beyond any football deal.

"We just totally traded lives," Carter began to explain yesterday as he and the rest of the Argos continued preparations for tomorrow's early season litmus test against the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

"This wasn't just a player getting traded for another player. I mean, we traded everything," Carter said.

Almost everything, but at the time it made both wonder what football future awaited.

When Mays, who has settled in nicely as Adrion Smith's replacement at strong-side corner, was jettisoned to the Nashville Kats from the Orlando Predators for Carter, he assumed Carter's jersey number, on-field responsibilities and lived in Carter's abode.

Carter experienced the same transformation, living life as though Mays had never left central Florida.

The strange twist of football fate fostered a friendship that now has the two lining up in the Argos defensive secondary for the first time.

Because they had each other's phone numbers, the two often spoke as Mays queried Carter about the Argos, about life in Canada and the CFL's quirkiness.

Carter joined the Argos last season after his AFL season was completed, learned the ropes on the team's non-active roster and appeared in one game.

He'll make his 2006 debut tomorrow at Rogers Centre, ending a journey that has seen Carter play pro football at some level since January.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge of seeing how far my body can go," Carter said. "I won't be playing in the arena league next year. I want to make the CFL my home."

At his current clip, Mays, who has two interceptions to complement his run defence, may also have found a permanent residence as well.

Carter has a degree in psychology and is certified to work as a mental health professional, attributes that should ensure longtime employment in the unstable world that is the CFL.

When he returns to his home state of Arkansas, Carter works for the North Little Rock School District, teaching civics and conflict management, alternating from school to school and touching the lives of kids as a mentor.

Carter has become a role model and a model citizen who breaks out in a wide grin when he remembers the events of March 15 that brought he and Mays together.

"It was very strange and memorable," he said. "And now we find ourselves as teammates and close friends."


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