Avery takes stand(up)

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

The way John Avery sees it, comedy saved him.

Avery's four years with the Toronto Argonauts weren't all chuckles on the field, so his ability to find humour was the best way to cope.

"It's been a rough, rough four years and comedy has been the best thing for me," said the running back who's in Calgary partaking in the Henry Burris All-Star Weekend fundraiser.

Today, Burris and his collection of celebrities will play a softball game at Seaman Stadium starting at noon.

"I'm not allowed to speak my mind in football. You pay attention to my last four years in Toronto, I couldn't really speak my mind.

"As soon as you do it, I call it being a man, standing up and saying, 'This is what I believe. This is what I feel' but other powers in that realm of sports will say, 'He's selfish, he's big-headed, he's not a team player.' I've always had a lot to say and comedy gives me that avenue to say it."

One way Avery keeps busy is trying his hand at stand-up comedy. He has a weekly internet radio show and hopes to parlay his quick wit into bigger and better things.

"I've always had the stage presence due to football, always had the camera in my face, always talking to kids. Those are things I've always done. It's taking everything I know and try to make jokes out of it, which is pretty simple, pretty easy," he said.

After an excellent first foray into the CFL -- with Edmonton in 2002, he racked up 1,448 yards rushing and nine touchdowns in 13 games and led the Eskimos to the Grey Cup game -- he left for one last NFL shot.

Following a short stint with the Minnesota Vikings, he returned north of the border and signed with Toronto.

The first year went well -- he won a Grey Cup and compiled 974 yards on the ground and another 364 yards through the air.

Since then, though, the waters under the good ship Argonaut have been rough for Avery, who's been relegated as back-up to the likes of Hakim Hill, Robert Edwards and the biggest -- Ricky Williams.

"When they played me, I played well, but with all the stuff that went on, it's hard to build your resume and keep your credibility as a playmaker," Avery said.

"To me, I was in the best situation in the world when Ricky Williams came. I had a chance to outplay Ricky Williams in front of the whole world. Everybody in the United States was watching, everybody in Canada was watching and I had the chance to outplay the guy they say is the best running back on the planet.

"It was a great opportunity, and I went out there and outplayed him."

But now, Avery is without a contract and caught somewhere between turning the page and seeing if there is another CFL opportunity.

"I would love to play this season. I practically begged Hamilton for a job," said Avery, who was officially released Jan. 31 even though his contract expired a couple of weeks later.

"It might be one of those things when the season starts and I might get a phone call.

"The biggest disappointment I had was Michael Clemens. He brought me in and made me believe he had my best interests in mind, was gonna look out for me. When all these things started to happen over and over again, he basically stepped back and let them happen."

STAMPS BULK UP ON D-LINE

The Calgary Stampeders added a trio of defensive linemen, inking

Howard Hodges, Kevin Harbour and Lemarcus Rowell yesterday.

Hodges spent last season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and dressed for 15 games. He finished second on the Ticats with six sacks, forced a fumble and had 28 tackles.

Harbour played at Grambling State, while Rowell was a linebacker at Jacksonville State University.


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