T.O. sets a fine example

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:06 PM ET

Before he returned to T.O. (the city) for Argos training camp dur ing t he summer, Arland Bruce paid a visit to T.O. (the person).

In what has been an annual summer getaway for the Argos receiver, Bruce spent a couple days kicking back at the Georgia mansion of Dallas Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens.

There was no rehearsal of touchdown dances, though in Bruce's telling he schooled his former teammate on Owens' own indoor basketball court.

But most importantly, Bruce was reminded of the commitment he saw in Owens when they played together for the San Francisco 49ers in 2003.

"We had a good relationship and I learned a lot from him there," Bruce said this week as he prepared for tomorrow's CFL East Division final against Montreal.

"Just his tenacit y and his desire to keep his body fit.

Nobody works harder than T.O."

With that work comes the spoils (and in Owens case, many would

say the spoiled). Money maybe the root of some of T.O.'s evil, but it isn't such a bad motivator in the eyes of a guy whose annual salar y is lighter on zeros.

"I saw his house and it just inspired me to want to work harder to have the luxury of what he has," Bruce said.

"He has a beautiful home.

That just pushes me every day to see what he has from all his hard work."

As teammates in Frisco, the two became fast friends. By then, T.O. was established as an elite NFL receiver, but he was also a great team-mate to Bruce, an undrafted player just trying to find his way after a stint in the CFL.

While Bruce, a cousin of St. Louis Rams star Isaac Bruce, recalls shaking his head at t he odd Owens sideline outburst, he also remembers his pal pushing him to improve.

"When he found out I was the starting (kick) returner, he said, 'Bruce, you get us to the 40-yard line and I'll give you a grand every time,'" Bruce said.

"He saw what was in me. He knew what I was capable of."

For whatever reason, the 49ers didn't feel the same way and cut him just before the 2004 season. The Argos won a mini-CFL bidding war and the for mer Winnipeg Blue Bomber was outfitted in double blue.

During the ensuing three seasons, Br uce has established himself as the most electrifying player on the Argos roster.

It began that first year when he had a 97-yard kickoff return and a seven-yard catch for a touchdown in the East final against Montreal before moving on to the Grey Cup.

Bruce continued to develop through a solid 2005 season and into a career campaign this summer and fall that will take Bruce back to the Big O for another crack at the Als tomorrow.

WOW FACTOR

In recent weeks, Bruce has unleashed severa l of what his coach, Michael ( Pinball) Clemons this week called "wow factor" plays.

There was a 68-yard touchdown catch that was more run to spark the fourth-quarter comeback over Winnipeg in this past Sunday's East semi. Not only did Bruce make the grab, he broke two tackles before sprinting to paydirt.

Two weeks ago, Bruce had a pair of touchdown catches, though the scoresheet only shows one. In what may have been his most exciting play of the season, a side-to-side, 60-yard reception late in the second half was called back after Als coach Jim Popp won a video challenge.

Increasingly, Bruce has become the player Argos fans and teammates look to for the big play, often while facing T.O.-like double coverage.

Which leads us to another les son Bruce has learned from Owens : The bigger the stage, the bigger the expectations.

"If I talked to him this week, he would tell me what he did in the summer," Bruce said. "Stay focused and stay hungry."


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