Kickers in the buff

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

Doug Brown may find this hard to believe, but he's got something in common with my hairdresser.

While touching up the do yesterday, Monsieur Scissorhands was astounded to learn that two of the most muscular players at Blue Bomber training camp are the kickers.

"That's craziness!" Scissorhands was saying. "They're kickers -- that's all they do!"

Brown, the 6-foot-8 defensive lineman, couldn't have said it better. Although he sure didn't mind giving it the old college try.

"I don't understand it," Brown said. "I guess when you essentially do nothing for a living, it enables you to spend a little more time in the weight room."

A little more time? Try five or six days a week, without missing a single workout.

That's how punter Jon Ryan spent the off-season. Combined with a low-carb, high-protein diet, Ryan weighed in for his second CFL season at 214 pounds, a whopping 22 more than last year.

Now he can compare abs with place-kicker Troy Westwood, already a 5-foot-10, 195-pound workout fiend. These two wouldn't look out of place in the pages of one of those muscle mags.

It used to be that in a locker-room full of physical specimens and towering behemoths, the one player who looked most like the rest of us was the kicker.

Remember Bernie Ruoff, who used to wear glasses and a wrist watch while playing? Or tiny Trevor Kennerd?

How about the ultimate every-man, Bob Cameron, called Batman to Westwood's Robin years back?

Well, you can forget about the nerdy Dynamic Duo.

These days, it's Buffed and Buffer.

The 7-Eleven Slurpee, long a Cameron/Westwood staple, has been replaced by the protein shake -- Westwood has one just before bed and another first thing in the morning, every day.

"It's all about competing at the highest level possible," Old Lefty explains. "Making yourself more durable ... to be able to take, and this might make people chuckle, the rigours of an 18-game schedule."

Chuckle?

Brown was nearly rolling in the parking lot.

"They're creating an illusion," the big man said, clearly enjoying the opportunity to get some extra hits in after practice. "Trying to fool us into thinking, by their physiques, that they're really the big, tough, trenches kind of guys. But when it comes down to it, like today when we're outside and it's raining, they run into the building. They're really just glorified pretty boys, with some muscles."

This was all in good fun, of course.

Just like the nicknames, like Balco and Barry Bonds, Ryan's already been dubbed with.

"It's laughable," grinned the Regina redhead. "They always say if guys aren't teasing you, you don't belong."

Thing is, Ryan and Westwood insist upper-body strength is a factor in kicking. Judging by the power Ryan has shown in camp, it's hard to argue.

Brown, though, was having too much fun to even consider the argument.

"I don't know why Jon Ryan has to bench press 500 pounds to drop a ball onto his foot, you know what I'm saying?" Brown said. "That's what they do -- kick stuff."

Brown has his own nickname for the duo: Hans and Franz, after the old Saturday Night Live characters.

"I have the utmost respect for the boys down in the trenches," Westwood said, still taking the high road. "So I won't be saying anything. And I will deal with Mr. Brown in a private manner."

Everyone has their breaking point, though.

When Brown suggested his college psychology major allowed him to conclude that Westwood and Ryan are suffering from an identity crisis, Westwood reached his.

"I think he got his degree out of a Cracker-Jack box," the kicker said. "So I'd have to investigate those credentials."

That's more like it.

Gotta keep those muscles in shape.

Even the mouth.


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