It's finally his time

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:08 AM ET

Jermese Jones has been a substitute for a good chunk of his professional life.

He's a substitute teacher in the winter back home in Durham, N.C., and he has primarily been a substitute offensive lineman with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the past three years.

In fact, the most publicity the 6-foot-5, 345-pounder got this season was when he did a live hit on Global News the night his favourite NHL team, the Carolina Hurricanes, won the Stanley Cup.

That all changed 10 days ago, when left tackle Dan Goodspeed tore his left ACL against the Montreal Alouettes.

Jones took over for Goodspeed in that game and then made his first start of the season on Thursday night in Edmonton.

ADMIRABLE PROTECTION

He protected quarterback Kevin Glenn's blind side admirably in Winnipeg's 25-22 victory over the Eskimos.

"I talked to Jermese today, as a matter of fact, and I told him that we did not miss a beat at that tackle spot," head coach Doug Berry said yesterday.

"He played a really outstanding game, as I knew he would."

Jones, 27, should also get a gold star for perseverance.

Since joining the team six games into the 2003 season, he has started 28 games. He's also been either on the practice roster or the injured list for 27 others. Luckily for the Bombers, the one and only time he dressed as a backup was last Saturday when he replaced Goodspeed.

While many a player would have packed it in amid such instability, the soft-spoken Jones kept hanging around.

'LOVE OF THE GAME'

"It's the love of the game," he said yesterday. "I like being here with the guys. I love hanging in the locker-room ... the smell of the sweat after games and stuff like that.

"I don't know, it's just something that keeps me around."

The fact that Jones was still in Winnipeg to replace Goodspeed last Saturday night is a testament to his ability.

The Bombers drafted Canadian O-linemen Obby Khan and Val St. Germain in the Ottawa Renegades dispersal draft with the hopes of going all-Canadian on the O-line.

Considering that Goodspeed was in tough to crack the roster, the odds of Jones sticking around weren't exactly great.

"When the draft happened in the off-season it caught my attention big-time," he said.

Yet here Jones is, staring at the glorious opportunity to cement himself as a bona fide CFL starter.

"I've heard it from other guys that I know from around the league: I feel like I should be here and I should be playing," he said.


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