Jason Pottinger knows a thing or two about hard work.
It was his hard work on special teams that got him the opportunity to get his first CFL start back in 2007 with the B.C. Lions.
And it was his hard work on special teams over the past four years and backing up Zeke Moreno in Toronto last season after joining the Double Blue in an off-season trade that brought him the opportunity to earn the Argos middle linebacker’s job he secured in training camp this past month.
Off the football field, it was hard work and a dogged determination that helped this Whitby native go back and upgrade his marks on an economics degree at McMaster — with a second degree in geography just about finished — that eventually got Pottinger into the MBA program at York University.
He’ll start that degree — working part time during the season and taking on a heavier load in the off-season — beginning in September.
Often in life it’s the prospect of all that hard work that scares people off or keeps one from reaching his or her aspirations.
Pottinger, though, has no such fear and while he’s had to be patient in his life, the rewards for all that hard work — both on and off the field — are starting to come.
Argos head coach Jim Barker saw this 6-foot-2, 243-pound hard worker in the tape he watched of Pottinger and decided to give him first crack at landing the middle linebacker’s job.
But Barker wants to be very clear — he in no way handed the job to Pottinger back in early June when he gave him first reps with the starting defence.
“We looked at film and felt like, based on the snaps he played, he had a chance to be a quality middle linebacker in this league,” Barker said. “I don’t know if I declared him the starter. He was with the first group the first day — but he had Leon Joe on his tail, day after day after day and he just kept rising to the occasion.
“He won that job. He was not handed that job. He earned that spot, but I felt based on the tape we had seen and what I knew about the guy, he was ready to take that step forward and be a starter in this league.”
Joe, a non-import is still with the team but on the practice roster, but based on everything he saw in training camp, Barker is convinced he’s got the right guy for the job.
“We brought a great linebacker in Leon Joe and Jason just answered the call,” Barker said.
Pottinger wound up starting for most of the 2007 season when the entire Lions linebacking corps took turns on the injured list but being told coming into a season that the opportunity was there for him to make the role his own was a first for him.
“It was just excitement,” Pottinger said of the feeling that day he sat down with Barker. “That’s what went through me. It was ‘Finally, here is my shot.’ I’m making sure that I take full advantage of this opportunity.”
Pottinger’s formative years in the league came in B.C. where he played his first three seasons — so it’s no surprise the player who has had the most impact on his own style is a former Lion.
That would be Javy Glatt, a Canadian middle linebacker who was with B.C. from 2003-2009. He’s with the Edmonton Eskimos this season.
“I learned a lot from him,” Pottinger said. “He did take me under his wing and wasn’t afraid to give me his tips and whatever else. When I say who I learned my trade from it would be him for sure.”
Asked for the single biggest thing he learned from Glatt, Pottinger said it’s impossible to put his finger on just one piece of advice he took from his former teammate.
“Overall just his mental toughness,” Pottinger said. “He wasn’t the biggest guy or the strongest guy, he wasn’t the fastest guy and people always told him he couldn’t do it. But he still did it.
“I don’t want to start any controversies but he had some good years, specifically 2006 when we won the Grey Cup. He had an all-star year but didn’t get all-star. He was mentally tough and didn’t let things bother him. If anything he let things like that fuel him so I kinda watched that and tried to take that from him.
“Anyone who tries to tell me I can’t do it, I just try to be like him.”
These days Pottinger is hearing much more “can do” than “can’t do” from the people around him.