Bell awaits Lemon's fate

Argos QB Dalton Bell practises his handoffs during Thursday's light workout in Mississauga....

Argos QB Dalton Bell practises his handoffs during Thursday's light workout in Mississauga. (VERONICA HENRI/QMI Agency)

Steve Simmons, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:26 PM ET

This waiting game is really nothing new for Dalton Bell.

It’s what he’s been doing for much of his football life.

At Canyon High School in Texas — his personal version of Friday Night Lights — he waited three years before being named the Eagles’ starting quarterback.

At West Texas A&M, he red-shirted his first year, carried a clipboard his second, didn’t make a start until his junior year.

Then after lighting it up, he turned professional. Didn’t play in Green Bay. Didn’t play in Carolina. Didn’t play in parts of two seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Hasn’t really played in two seasons with the Argos.

And now, you have to ask: Is it Dalton Bell time? Now, after a season and a quarter of waiting for Cleo Lemon to look something like a CFL quarterback worth relying on, you have to wonder just how blind, stubborn or loyal head coach Jim Barker must be.

“Now, (Lemon) needs to show up and lead this team, Is there a sense of urgency? Sure,” said Barker. “(Lemon) is expected to play at a different level. He’s expected to play better.”

Lemon will start at quarterback for the Argos home opener on Saturday afternoon. Whether he finishes the game is another matter. This is Game 4 of the CFL season but very early this is must win territory for the Argos. It’s one thing to start out 1-and-3 if they don’t beat Winnipeg on Saturday. It’s another thing to be 1-and-3, with two losses to Winnipeg, who only won four games last year. And at 1-and-3, the Argos would be two full games behind division rival, Winnipeg.

Dalton Bell understands the urgency. He has been waiting long enough. He has watched and wondered why his name has not been called this season.

“When you’re sitting on the sideline and you’re not really contributing, it’s hard,” said Bell. “You want to get in. You think, maybe I can do this, or I can do that. You feel like it’s time to start playing.

“The thing is, everyone out here was a starter in college. You come out here and you’re a backup and it’s a hard pill to swallow. Everybody out here wants to make a highlight film, make a difference in the game. You want to show what you can do, but I’m a role player right now and I’ve got a role to do. I may not like it, but it’s what I have to do.”

This year feels different than last year. This year, his wife Abbie, his high school sweetheart, is here living with him. It’s easier to be patient when family is around. It feels just a little more comfortable, if being a backup quarterback ever feels comfortable.

I suppose if you’re backing up Anthony Calvillo or Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, you don’t think a lot about playing. You don’t expect it. You probably don’t think you deserve the opportunity. But when you’re backing up Lemon, in a lemon of an offence, with a team that has fewer touchdown passes than either of the winless teams in the CFL, well, you might just start thinking it’s got to be your turn soon.

Bell hears it often enough. He gets calls and texts and emails from old teammates asking: When are you going to start? We at the Toronto Sun get emails regularly from fans of West Texas football, asking for updates about Bell’s progress in Canadian football. By college standards, this is his junior year in the CFL. This is usually about when it starts working for him.

“You feel like it’s time,” said Bell, “But life is crazy. Things happen for a reason.”

Bell has needed some assurance along the way, just to keep himself on track, to make sure he remains a team guy instead of a me guy. He has talked to some of his college coaches about the frustration of not playing. He has spoken to Matt Dunigan, the Hall of Fame quarterback, who began life as a third-stringer in Edmonton. He has heard all the good reasons why he needs to be patient.

And so he waits — believing in what he is capable of.

“Cleo is the guy right now and I wish him the best and I want him to win games and take us to the Grey Cup,” said Bell.

But how do their games differ? “I push the ball down the field (more). A little more of a vertical game,” he said. “I watch guys in the league. The guy I like watching is Ricky Ray. I think his game and my game is similar.”

If that’s the case, make the move now. We know what Cleo Lemon is. We’re still waiting to find out what Dalton Bell can be.


Videos

Photos