Secondary survival

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

Stanford Samuels and Omar Evans are football survivors.

They almost deserve medals of bravery for showing up at Winnipeg Blue Bombers training camp this year.

Samuels and Evans are unique in the fact that they were starters last year on the worst secondary in CFL history and are now starters on the league's top unit this year.

Last year the Bombers secondary allowed 351.9 passing yards per game. This year it leads the loop with a 237.1-yard average against.

For those of you scoring at home, that's an average of almost 115 fewer yards -- per game.

Samuels and Evans, who are the starting cornerbacks this year, witnessed the horror first-hand in 2005. That they're still starting -- and thriving -- is perseverance with a capital P.

'HAD TO EARN EVERYTHING'

"It's a testament to the work we've put in," Samuels said. "And it means we endured it. We endured it, we made it through and we basically conquered what we went through last year to still be standing here.

"There were good players brought in to replace all of us, and we didn't have a job coming back into this camp. We basically started from square one and had to earn everything all over again.

"So it feels good not only from the perspective of coming from last year, but just as far as what you earned this year and what you're part of."

Samuels had never been on a losing team until last year. He knew he was in trouble from Day 1 of training camp last May.

"Everything was unlike I'd ever seen, just from how practice went in training camp," he said. "It wasn't as organized as I was accustomed to having, even from high school."

He figures last year's debacle, which included defensive co-ordinator Rod Rust bailing on the team in mid-August, only made him stronger.

"All it did is make me hungry and want it more," Samuels said. "There were a lot of low points."

Evans' situation is a little different. He'd been on losing teams before, but self-confidence has never been a problem when it comes to No. 4. He hated the losing last year, but he was happy with his play.

"I'm going to stand out regardless, on the worst defence in history, like we had last year, or the best defence," Evans said.

"It doesn't matter if we're 0-18; I am going to make plays and somebody's going to acknowledge me, whether it's the media or the fans or somebody. That's just my personality."

You can't not mention new halfbacks Anthony Malbrough and Kelly Malveaux for helping turn things around, nor can you ignore the influence new defensive backs coach Gregg Butler has had.

Evans sure appreciates what Butler has done for his game.

Well, sort of.

"It's like a love-hate relationship," he said. "I hate him every day, but then I love him because he works me hard, and sometimes you need that, especially with me, because sometimes I can find myself being lackadaisical.

"I appreciate it sometimes, even though he gets on my nerves."


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