Bombers a better fit for Plante

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:27 AM ET

The tattoos, earrings, mohawk and eyebrow piercing don't exactly scream "Wally Buono."

So it's not surprising to hear Lorne Plante say he never really fit in during his three-year stint with Buono's B.C. Lions.

"I'm not going to say it's the bad-guy attitude, but it's just what I've kind of grown into," Plante said of his unique look. "It was hard being in B.C., because I know Wally wasn't a big fan of that. The mohawk ... I had a motorcycle. He always called me a biker.

"I tried to change, and I was like, I shouldn't have to change just to fit in the league. There's guys with tattoos, there's guys with earrings."

Despite feeling somewhat out of place with the Leos, Plante admitted he was "pretty devastated" three weeks ago when the Lions released him for failing his physical due to knee and shoulder inflammation. It didn't take long, however, for the 6-foot-7, 305-pound Winnipegger to find the silver lining.

"Technically, it was what I wanted," he said. "I wanted to kind of get out of B.C. They upgrade depth in B.C., so it was hard being there, especially being a young kid that didn't play any college and just came out of junior.

"I was competing with guys like Dean (Valli) and Sherko (Haji-Rasouli) and Angus (Reid), guys I played with at CIS schools and Division I schools. It was hard."

Life got much better for Plante a few days later when his agent said, "What about Winnipeg?" He didn't think twice about signing on the dotted line, and on Thursday he found his name on the Bombers' 46-man roster.

"It feels great," he said. "I'm glad to be back home. It's good to be playing for the Blue and Gold, finally."

Plante played his high school ball for the Sisler Spartans, and in his Grade 12 year was voted No. 6 in a Winnipeg Sun poll that determined the province's top 10 high school players. Here's what it said about him in the Sun on Nov. 9, 2001: "An imposing presence on the field, displays unbelievable quickness for his size. A naturally strong tackle who can manhandle opponents on either side of the ball. Has pro potential."

Was a force

Plante realized early on that university wasn't for him, so he decided to go the junior route in B.C., playing for both the Victoria Rebels and the Vancouver Island Raiders. He was a force in the BCFC, so the Lions made him a territorial signing before giving him a real deal prior to the 2007 campaign. It never amounted to much, though, as he spent all but a few games on the practice roster.

"The first year was definitely transitional, and the other two, they were hard, just sitting around and not really playing, just practising," he said. "It definitely took the fun and the love out of the game.

"But being back here, being with coach (Mike) Kelly, he's a player's coach. It's something I'm used to, and it's really fortunate that I've been brought into this program."

The Bomber brass believes the 26-year-old can be a solid guard in the CFL, and will give him the opportunity to reach that potential. And Kelly promises to not do a double take when Plante walks into the locker-room with another tattoo or a wild hairdo.

"Dude, I coached at San Francisco State at one time. He would be a normal entity there," Kelly said. "... I talk about being part of a team, but I've never asked anyone to take away their individuality, either. It's part of being a kid. Hey, at one time I had a beard and hair down to my shoulders. So it's all what era you're in.

"The nice thing is that I could cut my hair and shave my beard, but those tattoos are staying for a long time."

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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