Aye, aye Captain Pile

For the second year in a row, respected free safety Willie Pile has been voted captain of the...

For the second year in a row, respected free safety Willie Pile has been voted captain of the Boatmen's defence. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:05 PM ET

TORONTO - Willie Pile was named an East Division all-star a year ago after switching to free safety from linebacker.

But in the mind of Argonauts head coach and general manager Jim Barker, Pile, about to embark on his fifth season in the Canadian Football League, does not get the kind of respect he deserves.

“Probably not,” Barker said. “Nobody understands how much he does back there, which is OK. He is looked at as a safety who maybe can’t play a lot of man-to-man (defence) and he is in the later years of his career.

“But all he does is put everybody where they are supposed to be. He is physical and he has a great knack for the game.”

One would be hard-pressed to find a more enthusiastic Argo, whether he’s on offence or defence. Pile can talk a mile a minute, but the 31-year-old is a guy in control, and his teammates know it.

Pile, for the second year in a row, has been voted the captain of the defence by his teammates. Jeremaine Copeland (offence), Bryan Crawford (special teams) and Rob Murphy (linemen) also were re-elected as captains.

“I pride myself on that guys are going to look to me, and I need (to be an example) in both my deed and my word,” Pile said. “I’m out there working and hustling and meeting with coaches, and they know it is not for show. This is what I do.

“I’m not the biggest talker, but when I say something, I mean it.”

Pile also helps keeps the Argos loose. He has been known to convince a new player to address the team at a walk-through, only to have told everyone else to walk away on cue when that player starts speaking. We wouldn’t be surprised if a new Argo falls for the trick on Thursday in Calgary after the Argos are done preparing at McMahon Stadium.

But if that happens, it might not be a defensive newcomer, because there are not many. Claude Wroten, at tackwle, and cornerback Sean Smalls have won jobs that previously were held by others, and Ejiro Kuale has given Kevin Eiben a good run.

For the most part, though, there has been continuity from 2010, when the Argos defence allowed the fewest points in the league. A year ago the defence learned on the job; now, it collectively is ready to take another step.

“The biggest thing we needed to work on was communication, and we did,” Pile said. “We now know how to talk to each other, get each other in the right positions to make plays. A defence that talks, that’s on the same page, is going to be more successful.”

Barker likes to say his players would sort that kind of thing out if it existed, but the truth is, he weeds those players out early in the process.

And when Barker speaks of the importance of continuity, it’s not just about the guys on the gridiron.

“Last year, people forget, we had four coaches on defence who had never met each other,” Barker said. “Now they have had a year of knowing each other and they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I give (co-ordinator) Chip Garber a lot of credit for what he has done with this defence. We’re where we want to be.”

It takes 12 players to get it done, but Pile is the glue.

“Once you make individual improvements, whether it is getting stronger, faster or working on your technique or stamina, it becomes the best team,” Pile said. “I like where we are. We have a chance to be really special.”


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