Bombers make LaBatte Blue

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

Just saying a kid named LaBatte became a Blue Bomber might be great for Winnipeg's brewery sponsor but there is much more to the latest recruit than selling brown bubbly.

The Bombers picked University of Regina Rams offensive lineman Brendon LaBatte with their first choice in yesterday's CFL entry draft (sixth overall) and they believe the 6-foot-4, 320-pound Weyburn, Sask., native could crack their roster as soon as this year.

"You can never have enough offensive linemen," said Bombers GM Brendan Taman, who has had nightmares over O-line woes since he first arrived on the Winnipeg scene.

"He won't start for us but he could easily make our football team this year. He may only be 21 years old but he stood out at the East-West Shrine Bowl and that helped him a lot."

In fact, that showing moved LaBatte up to the top of their wish list.

"It feels awesome to get picked by any team in the first round and Winnipeg, being close to home, it's just a perfect situation and I'm extremely happy to be going there," LaBatte said from Regina where he was watching the draft between lifting cords of wood at a lumberyard.

"I'm expecting it's going to be an adjustment but I'll have to pick it up pretty quick. I'm really hoping to go there and get an understanding of what's going on offensively and to contribute and hopefully play. But whatever's going to benefit the team the most, I'll be happy either way."

LaBatte was a Canada West all-star and CIS second-teamer who still has a year of college eligibility left.

"Brendon's a strong kid whom we feel can come in and compete on the offensive line right now," said Bob Dyce, Bombers draft co-ordinator.

"Throughout his career in Regina, he's dominated at his position. If you watch the game film, you would see that he is the one man in Canada West or even CIS that dominated at his position."

Winnipeg head coach Doug Berry likes his nastiness.

"I'm the type of guy who doesn't take any plays off, that's for sure," said LaBatte, who also races stock cars. "I go hard every down and I kind of like it when the guy across from me is a little bit bigger and I have to prove myself.

"So when I'm lined up against a guy, I want to hurt him. There's no kidding around, I want to hurt him so I can go on to the next guy."

Berry added that Winnipeg's O-linemen are getting older and the club was looking for more depth there.

The Bombers also selected Simon Fraser receiver Aaron Hargreaves, Windsor running back Darryl Stephenson, St. Mary's defensive back/kick returner Marc Beswick, Manitoba defensive lineman Don Oramasionwu and Sherbrooke linebacker Pierre-Luc Labbe.

"I don't know how much impact we're going to be looking for (this year)," Berry said. "But each team has its own chemistry and I felt we needed to identify positional players who could come in and help us build depth and maybe help us get that extra win that we didn't get last year (Grey Cup game)."

Although the Bombers did attempt to trade up to get the No. 1 pick from Hamilton, they seemed pleased with the first draft in which they had held on to all their picks since Taman was hired.

"From all of the analysis we have done, we think we've done pretty decently with the guys coming to camp," Dyce said. "They are all young guys with a lot of potential to grow."

The Bombers plan to claim two more players through the supplemental draft of players passed over yesterday. Last year, they claimed guard Kyle Koch and defensive lineman Brian Guebert that way.

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos