Beating the odds

Defensive back Steve Holness keeps his eye on the ball during a drill at Blue Bombers training camp...

Defensive back Steve Holness keeps his eye on the ball during a drill at Blue Bombers training camp in early June. SUN MEDIA/Jason Halstead

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:55 AM ET

They may have been three of the most unlikely Canadians to crack the squad when they first arrived at Winnipeg's training camp.

After all, two of them had been passed over in the draft and the third was chosen second-last overall.

But linebackers Pierre-Luc Labbe and Anthony Maggiacomo and defensive back Steven Holness all made the grade when the Blue Bombers declared their 2008 CFL roster on Saturday.

"It was a long day," Labbe said yesterday. "When it was announced, it was a great day. I called my parents who were both crying. It was one of the best days of my life, for sure."

And yes, the Sherbrooke grad was crying "a little bit," too. And yeah, sometimes it is OK to cry, even in football.

PROUD MOMENT

"It was the first time a Sherbrooke player ever made the CFL," added the 6-foot-1, 198-pound Quebec City native. "It was a pretty proud moment for me, for my family. It's a huge step. They made a lot of sacrifices the last two or three years. So, I have been waiting for this for a long time."

Labbe, 24, was selected in the sixth-round of the 2008 entry draft.

"I wore the No. 47 and I don't know if you know but I was the 47th draft pick so I will keep this number," he said. "That's good motivation for me."

Labbe noted that Winnipeg's third (running back Daryl Stephenson), fourth (defensive back Marc Beswick) and fifth picks (defensive lineman Don Oramasionwu) were released, although Beswick remains on the practice roster.

Both Maggiacomo and Holness were signed as free agents after being snubbed in the draft.

"Growing up in Canada and playing football, you never really expect to be here," said Maggiacomo, 24. "You always hope but now that I'm here, I have to pinch myself to realize that I'm a professional athlete in some regards. So, it's pretty cool and I'm pretty happy. I'm definitely going to give it my all for the season."

But he spent a very nervous Friday and Saturday by the telephone, hoping it would not ring.

"The longer Friday night went on and Saturday went and there were no phone calls, and I got here and there was no note on my locker," said the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Wilfrid Laurier product. "Then, I realized what was going on ... It wasn't very much fun.

"I knew I was doing well, though. I was getting some feedback and I was hoping. You never know. But I was doing what I could so, I was hoping for something like that and it kind of happened."

Holness, meanwhile, relished the thought of becoming an undrafted Bomber.

SPECIAL TEAMS PLAY

"It gives me goosebumps," said the 5-foot-11, 197-pound Montreal native. "If you will, it's history in the making, especially for myself. My career at the University of Ottawa wasn't the prettiest of careers.

"I can't lie, the day of final cuts, I was kind of anxious and nervous and I had a knot in my stomach, even though I knew I had done well ... Things worked out and I'm delighted."

Holness also said his mother cried when he called her while his father was more low key.

"Unless you're a starter, you're evaluated on your special teams play," Bomber head coach Doug Berry said about the three rookies. "There's good athletic ability with these guys and good desire, attitude. That's what it takes to be a good special teams player. They did a good job at the positions we had them and hopefully now, they'll be able to give them more responsibilities."


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