Chip on his shoulder

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:30 AM ET

Here's hoping Jonathan Hefney finds a way to bring his mother to the CFL player awards show during Grey Cup week.

Because that might be a show unto itself.

Hefney, the only Winnipeg Blue Bomber to be an East Division nominee for the outstanding player awards, was telling a story about his mom, the baseball fan, yesterday.

"She got kicked out of numerous baseball games," Hefney, a former ball player, was saying. "I've seen, literally, the police grab her and tell her they were going to take her to jail. She's on the umps, hard. To this day when we go to a baseball game, she's still on the umps that hard. It's so funny."

Imagine Mrs. Hefney in the crowd at some swanky Calgary ballroom, watching her son go up against B.C. Lions running back Martell Mallett for the CFL's rookie-of-the-year award.

Lord help the voters if Mallett wins it.

It seems Hefney got more than a little of his mother's fire -- although it's not directed at officials -- and it's helped get him to the stage.

The 5-foot-8 defensive back from Rock Hill, S.C., plays with a chip on his shoulder, has since leaving high school, when the college he wanted to go to, South Carolina, didn't want him.

The University of Tennessee did, and South Carolina paid for it more than once.

"OK, chip on my shoulder," Hefney said. "Every time I play Carolina I get an interception and run back punts and I stick it to 'em. I let 'em know."

Same deal when he wasn't drafted by the NFL.

Token opportunities with Tampa Bay and Philadelphia didn't lead to anything, so he attended a Blue Bomber free agent camp with plenty to prove -- and got noticed immediately.

Eighteen games, all as a starter, 66 defensive tackles and four interceptions later, and he hasn't stopped being noticed.

"I felt like I got cheated on the draft," Hefney said. "So when I came here I was like, 'Why complain? Just go out there and play and be blessed and happy.' So that's what I did. I feel like I had to prove a lot to everybody that I could really play."

Oh, he can play, all right. Probably the best find of new personnel boss, John Murphy.

"It took me half the season to figure out he was a rookie," veteran Bomber D-lineman Doug Brown said.

"He carried himself with such poise. He has a lot of veteran attributes to him. He's very consistent and a great student of the game. When I got to know him, I was surprised he was a first-year player up here. He's a big-time player."

Making a small-time wage, less than $50,000.

So when his buddies back in Rock Hill assume he's as loaded as his NFL friends, he has to set them straight. Some are shocked to learn they actually make more than he does.

Being voted the top rookie in the East should help address that, right?

"Oh, big-time," Hefney said. "I hope so. It better. But I never would be greedy about anything. Because you don't get it that way, if you're greedy."

That doesn't mean he won't try to get another NFL shot this winter. He wants that, bad.

But, first things first.

"Man, it's an honour," Hefney said of his nomination. "I never imagined I would be in this position."

He'd love to be up against Edmonton running back Arkee Whitlock, his defacto brother (they grew up in the same home), for the rookie award.

But it's Mallett, another running back, instead.

Either way, tough sledding for a defensive back.

"He gets all the glory, you know?" Hefney said. "It's easy to be a running back. And they made the playoffs, and we didn't."

Just another potential chip on the shoulder, if he doesn't win the trophy.

And a potentially explosive show.

If we can somehow get Mrs. Hefney there.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.

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CFL OUTSTANDING PLAYER NOMS

Category East West

Player Anthony Calvillo, Mtl. Joffrey Reynolds, Cal.

Def. Player Anwar Stewart, Mtl. John Chick, Sask.

Canadian Ben Cahoon, Mtl. Ricky Foley, B.C.

Special Teams Larry Taylor, Mtl. Jason Arakgi, B.C.

Rookie Jonathan Hefney, Wpg. Martell Mallett, B.C.

O-Lineman Scott Flory, Mtl. Ben Archibald, Cal.


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