Blue collar Bomber

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:08 PM ET

Courtney Smith has this free agent camp thing all figured out.

Now he just needs a full-time football job so he can stop attending them every year.

The 25-year-old Texas State product is in a heated battle with Marty Bowman to become the Winnipeg Blue Bombers new starting weak-side linebacker, the position formerly held by the released Siddeeq Shabazz.

Sunday’s pre-season finale in Hamilton against the Tiger-Cats could go a long way in determining which one of them gets the job, which is also being pursued, among others, by SaMario Houston.

“It would be a true blessing. It’s something I’ve been working hard at,” Smith said. “I’ve put in the work to be a starter and I’m prepared to be the starter, so all you have to do is give me the word. I feel like that’s all I need.”

Smith made the B.C. Lions in 2009 after being spotted at a free agent camp in Dallas last spring. He spent all but four games on the practice roster and wasn’t re-signed in the off-season.

The Bombers invited him to one of their free agent camps this spring, and he must have done something right because he was playing weak-side linebacker with the first-team defence on Day 1 of training camp.

“I’m pretty good at free agent camps,” Smith said with a chuckle.

The Millen, Ga., native was unable to play in Sunday’s pre-season win over the Montreal Alouettes due to an undisclosed injury, and he’s been feeling the effects of the flu that has been making the rounds in the locker-room.

Bowman, meanwhile, had four tackles and two special teams takedowns in Sunday’s game and might have jumped ahead of Smith on the depth chart. Smith could probably use a strong performance on Sunday in Hamilton to change that.

Head coach Paul LaPolice, who isn’t exactly prone to handing out compliments about his players, issued a good news/bad news report on Smith, noting “he runs to the ball well and he’s physical, but sometimes he just has to understand our coverage concepts a little bit better, and that’s what he’s working towards.”

Smith is built solidly, his 6-foot frame carrying 225 pounds. He believes his “tenacity” and nose for the ball is what sets him apart.

“I’m a hard worker. I’m a blue collar type guy,” he said. “That’s something I pride myself on.”

Smith grew up in Georgia with five younger sisters, and that alone might have contributed to his large arms. “I had to fight the boys off of them,” he said with a laugh. “That’s where these muscles come from, beating them up all the time.”

He moved to Texas with his dad when he was 13, while his sisters stayed in Georgia with his mom. He started playing football when he got to the Lone Star state, and he was a star running back in high school. He was converted to linebacker at Texas State, and he had a whopping 117 tackles in his senior season of 2008.

He views his many reps during training camp as a “great opportunity,” and he doesn’t plan on wasting it.

“The more humble you are and the harder you work,” he said, “the luckier you get.”


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