Many happy returns

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:20 PM ET

Funny how things work out sometimes.

Back when Markus Howell was about to announce his retirement as a CFL player on the eve of training camp, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers advised the wide receiver/kick returner not to file his official retirement papers because he would only be able to return to the Calgary Stampeders if he ever wanted to change his mind. So he un-retired and asked the Stamps to release him so he could keep his options open.

Two months later, Howell got the call he wanted from the Bombers and the Winnipeg native will now finish his career where it started.

I got drafted here, I began my career here and it will be great to finish it up here, Howell said after his first practice with the Bombers on Monday. I was here for a good chunk of my career, then I left for a little bit and now, Im home. So, it feels good.

The 5-foot-10, 188-pound Texas Southern speedster played for Winnipeg from 2000 to 2004, then joined the Ottawa Renegades as a free agent. In 2006, the Stamps plucked him in the Renegades dispersal draft and he played there while maintaining his Winnipeg home ever since.

When I retired, I didnt slam the door, said Howell, who can also play kick cover teams and defensive back. I said over and over again, I would keep the option open if the right situation appeared.

To make room for Howell, the Bombers released much younger Canuck pass-catcher Jabari Arthur, who is on the verge of re-signing with the Stamps.

Howell, who wanted to spend more time at home with his family and start a business here, just turned 35 in April while Arthur is 27.

Did I look old today running around? OK, there you go, he said with an infectious smile. I got that from the Turtle Man (Milt Stegall) himself. You always stay in shape no matter if you are playing or not always look good on a beach.

In fact, Howell had heard rumblings that the Bombers may call.

A little birdie told me my name kept coming up a little bit and to turn up my workouts, and I did that, he said. And (Sunday), I got a phone call and things moved pretty quickly.

Bomber head coach Paul LaPolice, who coached Howell when he was the offensive co-ordinator here, told him to stay in shape when he first retired just in case, and he was not concerned about his age.

Hes one of those guys who runs going to the kitchen, right? LaPolice said. We felt we always had the capability of possibly getting Markus, whos a great guy. Ive coached him before, I think the world of him and I think he can help us.

Howell can help the kick coverage and spell off both kickoff and punt returners.

Im going to be doing what Ive been doing my whole career wherever the coach needs me, he said. The teams already pretty good. In my mind, it should be 2-0 already. But they are what they are and I think Im just a bit player they are adding on and wherever I can fit in, Im going to help.

Fullback Jon Oosterhuis greeted Howell with a hug at practice and others came over to shake his hand.

It was kind of weird walking into the locker-room, said Howell, who does not know if he will play in Hamilton this week yet. It was good to see some old faces. (Equipment manager) Brad Fotty back there fitting my helmet and (assistant GM Ross (Hodgkinson) and the boys, and coach LaPo in his new position. So, it was nice to return home.

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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