TORONTO - When Sean Smalls arrived in Toronto five weeks before the end of the season he thought it would simply be as an introductory to football Canadian style.
Then Argonauts’ cornerback Willie Middlebrooks suffered a career-ending neck injury and suddenly Smalls found himself in Toronto’s starting lineup. “I didn’t think I’d play at all; I figured I was just up here to learn.”
Modesty befits him.
Smalls has hung on to the job like white on rice. Michael Grant couldn’t dislodge him during training camp and last week the club cut fellow DB Josh Abrams and he’s playing ahead of Dee Webb. “People haven’t caught balls on him and he’ll be there as long as he does that. Dee Webb is ready to,” said head coach Jim Barker.
Smalls is used to coming out of nowhere. The University of Massachusetts was known more for basketball when Smalls arrived but he helped the team to a national championship game and two conference titles.
“When Willie went down it was like, Boom, you’re in there! I’m starting to settle in with this (CFL game) and feeling more comfortable,” Smalls said.
Smalls fits Barker’s mould to play on the boundary. “I like a big guy on the boundary side, especially with the big receivers now in this league,” said Barker. “He’s a physical, strong kid. He’s got very good hip movement. He’s able to change direction. He’s not Willie Middlebrooks’ size but he plays big.”
Smalls is playing a position that remains one of the most hotly contested within the team. “There’s a lot of competition,” said Barker. “It’s funny how at positions where there’s (backups) ready to take a position, the starters don’t get hurt.
“It’s because if you got hurt and somebody took your job (there’s the chance) you’re never going to get it back. That’s how it is now on our back end. I don’t think you’ll see guys out with hamstring pulls and things like that. They may never get their job back.”
Sean Smalls doesn’t intend on going anywhere. He is feeling just fine, thank you.