Argos a springboard home for Armstead?

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:51 AM ET

TORONTO - The second coming of Cameron Wake? Or yet another wakeup call for an American hoping to use three-down football as a springboard back on to the big stage that is the NFL?

Like most things, given the calendar year and the quality of opposition that surrounds any rookie camp, only time will tell.

But in Armond Armstead’s case, it could well be a case of two-and-done.

So explosive when he comes off the line of scrimmage, so determined to prove wrong the many naysayers down south, so savvy in understanding the ugly underbelly that exists at this level of sports, Armstead comes across as having both the mental and physical resolve to one day end up in the NFL.

As far as first impressions go, the kid has it all, including humility that appears genuine, a drive that is second to none and a motor that’s as coveted as any trait when lining up on the line of scrimmage.

As Argos new defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones aptly said of Armstead: “Once the level of competition ramps up, it’ll be interesting to see what he does against the veterans. In the two days that he’s been here, he’s done some good things.”

Armstead is one guy fans of the Double Blue should be watching closely as veterans begin to trickle into camp, as the countdown to the season begins in earnest.

Every once in a while, a gem is discovered, a player with raw talent who falls into a team’s lap when circumstance, politics and ignorance are somehow blended into one to present a story that is far from complete.

When the games get real and if Armstead emerges as just another body, then it’s no slam dunk for this USC product to re-surface on the NFL radar.

For the time being, the Argos can only hope he continues to grasp the nuances of the CFL because Armstead has that potential to be a rare difference-maker.

The first two days in camp have been about absorbing new experiences, whether it was watching deer run across the fields at U of T’s Mississauga campus, seeing for the first time in his life a black squirrel, of all things, and watching humans interact with nature.

“You just don’t see this connection between nature and man in the United States,’’ said Armstead. “It’s beautiful and I’ve enjoyed it.

“I’ve never been to Canada and I’m looking forward to exploring the city of Toronto. I know the Blue Jays, the Raptors and I know they have other sports teams, but that’s about it.

“I knew Toronto had a CFL team, but I didn’t know it was the Argos. I never knew the rules for the CFL, never seen a game, the only exposure I’ve had was watching some clips on YouTube.”

Born in Sacramento, Armstead was four years old when the CFL made its ill-fated foray to the U.S., as a quick financial fix at a time when money was scarce.

Ask Armstead about the Gold Miners and no memory is evoked, no connection to a team that featured some pretty impressive players.

Ask Armstead about the NFL and he glances one of those looks that speaks to a young man who has a big-picture view after experiencing a close-up view.

In a nutshell, Armstead, 22, got screwed by the NFL when teams raised the red flag over a medical condition doctors would later clear.

He isn’t about to get into every detail, but Armstead did shed some light.

“I had an episode and I was hospitalized,’’ he said. “They ran a bunch of tests and found out I didn’t have any heart condition or any blood condition. That’s basically it.

“I came out and tried to go to the draft, but teams were scared because of the history and they didn’t want to take a chance on me.”

There were suitors, though, and teams would offer Armstead invites to training camp.

“I didn’t want to wait until July,’’ Armstead added. “I decided on the sure shot. All I wanted was an opportunity and the Argos gave me one.”

The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Armstead played both inside and at defensive end at USC, running a 4.7 40 at the peak of his training.

In the zany CFL, Armond Armstead will get exposed to many oddities and has in fact appreciated the one yard off the line of scrimmage.

“By far the biggest advantage is the visual keys,’’ he said. “You can see what the offensive linemen are doing before you actually make contact with them, which is pretty cool.”


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