Humble foot soldier

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

An NFL agent like Drew Rosenhaus would take Neil McKinlay's numbers from Saturday and turn them into a million-dollar contract.

The backup Bomber linebacker played only five snaps on defence in Saturday's 13-12 win over the Toronto Argos, yet he recorded an interception and a forced fumble that changed the game.

That's a big-play ratio not many football players would be able to boast about, but the Langley, B.C., native isn't about to demand a raise or more playing time.

"It's nice to get in there and be a part of what we're doing, especially as well as we've been playing defensively," McKinlay said yesterday. "And it's good to get in to Toronto and get a win and be not a contributing factor but a piece of the puzzle. So it was nice."

Just like a true foot soldier, McKinlay's modesty is one of the best parts of his game. He wasn't just "a piece of the puzzle" on Saturday; his forced fumble with 2:28 left, which was recovered by Barrin Simpson, prevented the Argos from kicking what likely would have been the game-winning field goal.

"I can't say that I was surprised by it, because he comes out here every day in practice and he just flies around," head coach Mike Kelly said. "He's just one of those guys that's enjoyable to have around.

"He fits into that mould of those Canadian guys that just go out there and they're un-heralded and ... you're only as good as those guys. I was thrilled for him to have those kind of plays, but not overly surprised."

McKinlay, 28, knows his role and performs it well. He has missed only two games since being drafted by the Bombers in 2004, and it's not like he's been a spectator, either.

He has 82 special teams tackles in 93 career games, not to mention another 55 drops on defence. The 55 defensive tackles are impressive considering he has only seven career starts.

"When you gotta go in you gotta go in, and be mentally prepared or else you could be in big trouble," said McKinlay, who was the CIS's top defensive player in 2003.

"That's the way it's been for the last couple years, so you kind of get used to preparing the same way and go about your business. So nothing's really changed for me.

"It's just kind part and parcel of being where I'm at."


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