Texas duo at home in T.O.

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:35 AM ET

Reggie McNeal and Bethel Johnson hail from the Lone Star state, but neither feels alone as they begin the process of learning the CFL's ropes.

College teammates at Texas A&M whose football paths have crossed with the Argos, McNeal and Johnson share a bond that extends beyond the gridiron.

Their familiarity will come in handy as each attempts to make an impression with the Argos, who are scheduled to welcome the team's veterans today after putting rookies and quarterbacks through their paces.

Even the most casual observer can sense the camaraderie between McNeal and Johnson.

"I know he has my back and I have his,'' McNeal said following yesterday's session. "If I ever go left, I know he's going to steer me in the right direction.

"On the field, we just have this connection. It's like second nature."

McNeal, who earned considerable acclaim heaving the pigskin as a high school prodigy in Texas, was told by the NFL that he couldn't play at quarterback. As is the norm, NFL teams try to convert athletic signal-callers into receivers when they are not traditional drop-back quarterbacks who stay tall in the pocket.

In the case of Kerry Joseph, the NFL felt his position was in the defensive secondary.

McNeal was so highly touted in high school that he upstaged Vince Young.

"You know how big high school football is in Texas,'' Argos head coach Rich Stubler said. "At that time, there was no one bigger than Reggie."

Joseph, barring injury, is expected to start, while Michael Bishop, last season's incumbent, will serve as back up, leaving McNeal and Cody Pickett to compete for the third-string position.

"People will see how good Reggie is, how athletic he is and how quick he can run,'' Johnson said. "When Reggie was a freshman at Texas A&M, I was a senior and he learned our offence very quickly."

What McNeal never got, at least down south, was an opportunity to showcase his passing and leadership skills.

It's way too early in camp to predict what, if any impact, McNeal and Johnson, a receiver/returner, will have, but they are enjoying football life in the CFL and the ability to improvise on the fly.

"Every day here I have a smile on my face,'' Johnson, who earned two Super Bowl rings with New England, said. "Football is fun again."

McNeal joined the Argos late last season and got to watch and abwsorb the nuances of three-down football. A rib injury prevented McNeal from practising at full strength, but Stubler saw enough to invite McNeal to camp.

PEARSON RETIRES

Mike Pearson retired, leaving a huge hole at left tackle.Pearson broke his leg last year.


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