But it was evident early in training camp that Inman had other ideas. He has one simple football theory: If there’s a ball in the air, he’s getting it. Doesn’t matter whether it’s game day, like the Argonauts home opener when he twice out-worked and out-manoeuvred defenders for touchdown catches, or whether it’s practice, like Thursday when he stretched out to make a diving grab of a Ricky Ray practice pitch.
Coach Scott Milanovich was forced to wear a big grin.
“I didn’t see coach’s expression. Coach doesn’t have many expressions,” said Inman, laughing himself.
With Mann injured, and defences shutting down Barnes much of the season, Inman has become Toronto’s major deep threat with 309 yards on 16 catches.
“As a competitor you always want more. But I’m thankful for my start. It’s been a long time coming. I’m .thankful for the opportunity. A lot of people don’t get this chance. And to be able to take advantage is a great deal for me,” said the 23-year-old South Carolina native.
Inman joined the team in February after an aborted signing with a Wisconsin Arena League team and a short stint with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, who he signed with as an undrafted free agent only to be cut. After four seasons at the University of Virginia, it was a quick lesson in the uncertainty of life as a professional football player.
There is a quiet confidence about Inman, though. He has faith. In himself. In his destiny. “I’m a real religious guy. I just believe God has a plan for me ... I never have any worries. I know one way or another everything will work out.”
And, so far as an Argonaut, it couldn’t have worked out any better. For the team. For Inman. He has caught a pass of 19 yards or longer in five of the six games he has started. There was the 19-yarder against Edmonton in Week 1, a 56-yard bomb against Calgary, a 38 yard catch against Hamilton, one for 25 against Winnipeg and a 39-yard completion against Montreal. Only B.C., last week, kept him from going long.
Inman is taking none of this granted. The work, and the learning, is in its infancy. This is football unlike he has ever played before.
So what’s the most important thing he has learned since coming to training camp?
He pauses. But just for a second. “Patience,” he said.
“Coming from down south, coaches would tell you to do everything fast. Get open fast, get off the ball fast, beat your man fast.
“Here, it’s more you gotta be patient. You’ve gotta be patient on your routes. You gotta be patient on your releases. Yo gotta be patient when the ball comes to you. That’s the main thing.”
He didn’t understand at first. And, there are moments when it all still is a bit of a mystery.
“But it makes a whole lot of sense. It works. That yard the defence has, you can’t just go fast because they can just shadow you ... so you have to be patient up into the DB and then act off that. The field is wider so if you just go and run your route too quickly they’ll just cut you off.
“You have to be patient,” Inman said. “The field, the timing, the yard off the ball, the way they defence plays. It takes a while to learn that lesson. At times I forget about it and go, ‘Aargghhh! Man! I gotta recap on that!’ It’s difficult to change habits that you’ve been taught and followed all your life.”
As for that Rubik’s Cube, he’d kind of forgotten about the toy when, during the recent bye week, he walked through a department store.
“I saw that Walmart had them and said, “Aw! I gotta get it.’ I bought it and I’ve been messing around with it ever since.”
His personal best is 78 seconds.
“One of my buddies at the University of Virginia taught me how to do it. You have to do the first layer, the second layer, the third. It’s really an algorithm ... based on what you see in each square and what colour shows. Most people think you do each side.”
His goal is to get it done in under a minute.
His goal with the Argos is going to take a little longer. One practice. One game. One day. One catch at a time will, he hopes, a long career make. After burning Calgary for 107 yards in Toronto’s home opener, he’s not looking much past Saturday’s return engagement in Cowtown.
“A couple of their guys were telling me: ‘Okay, you got us. But we’re seeing YOU again’. They’re looking for my head so I gotta elevate my game.”
LINEMAN IS PROCESSING IT
Tony Washington has had to fight for everything in life.
His journey to a place on the Argonauts’ offensive line has been one marked by patience and perseverance.
On game day, fans see the blood and sweat and the pain. Today’s high-definition television can relay the sound of fury that comes in the trenches when a couple of tons of humanity collide with ill intent. What they can’t see, is what brought these men to this moment in time.
“My moment?” says the CFL rookie left tackle (Okay, he played six games in Calgary last year). “I don’t know if I look at it that way really. It’s a process. Every time I get a chance to step on this field it is an opportunity; it is my moment.
“I think people who are successful in life persevere through stuff,” he said Thursday, after the Argonauts’ final walk-through before flying out to Calgary. “They are patient, dedicated and just have a lot of faith in what they are doing. People who quit. People who say say, this is too hard, then you can never succeed. But I’m a fighter.”
Head coach Scott Milanovich has a high regard for Washington’s talent. At 6-foot-7 and almost 300 pounds, he can dominate not just a room, but perhaps an entire stadium.
The Argonauts may have Washington’s back side. Now, they hope, in return he will have quarterback Ricky Ray’s.
It won’t be for lack of preparation.
“This offence we run is extremely difficult. There’s a lot of ins and outs. It’s just not centre, guard, tackle. We have to do everything together. There are more different rules in this offence than any other offence I’ve ever been in,” said Washington.
So, forget that big, dumb jock stereotype. These guys have as much study time as they do playtime.
“We spend more time in the film room then we do on the field,” he said. “There is a lot of study time. Every other place I’ve been we spent more time on the field than in the film room.”
The offensive line was horrid in its last outing, an 18-9 defeat at the hands of the B.C. Lions, so the Argonauts probably need Washington as much as he needs the Argonauts.
“They need to do their job and do it better than last week,” said Milanovich. “There were times we didn’t block the guys we were supposed to block and they came through free. There’s no excuse for it. If the quarterback can’t plant his back foot with the football now you got problems.”
And there were big problems. Ray was under constant pressure. So Milanovich is juggling his line. Washington is taking over at left tackle for the first time. Wayne Smith moves inside. Marc Parenteau was at right guard, although Milanovich said he intends to move people in and out of the guard positions depending on the game situation.
Chris Van Zeyl stays at right tackle.
STOPPING LARRY TAYLOR, PART II
The Argonauts spent a lot of time this week working on special teams, ahead of their Saturday night tilt in Calgary.
Good idea. You know, considering what Stamps’ Larry Taylor did to them in their home opener. Taylor had 222 yards on kickoff returns and another 70 on two punts. Oh, and then there was that 125-yard TD on the missed field goal.
Of course, that was when Noel Prefontaine was trying to kick with a hip that was going wonky. Swayze Waters is in now. Where Prefontaine wasn’t getting a lot of hang time on balls inside the hash marks, it will be up to Waters to get the ball high enough to allow the coverage teams to get downfield.
“You need great kicks. Location. When you give the ball down the middle it gives (Taylor) the whole field,” said head coach Scott Milanovich. “And, our guys on the cover team need to do a better job of getting downfield with urgency and stay in their lanes.
“I think it’s all going to be relative to how well Swayze puts the ball outside the numbers. And, if our guys stay in their lanes, there isn’t that much space to go. Even then, a guy like (Taylor) will make some plays, just like Chad Owens will for us, but it can’t be as many as in the last game.”
Toronto won that game 39-36. Chances are, a repeat performance won’t have such a happy ending.