Pep talk calms rookie Bomber receiver Etienne

Blue Bombers receiver Jade Etienne tries to catch a pass during rookie camp at Canad Inns Stadium...

Blue Bombers receiver Jade Etienne tries to catch a pass during rookie camp at Canad Inns Stadium Friday in Winnipeg, Man. (CHRIS PROCAYLO/QMI Agency)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:02 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Jade Etienne struggled, and struggled hard, over the first two days of rookie camp.

He knew it, his coach knew it, and everyone watching knew it. The pressure of being the fourth overall draft pick was getting to him.

So Bombers boss Paul LaPolice called the young receiver into his office on Thursday afternoon and showed him some statistics of some former CIS pass catchers who went on to successful CFL careers.

Andy Fantuz. Rob Bagg. Chris Getzlaf.

LaPolice wanted Etienne to notice the numbers he produced last year at the University of Saskatchewan were comparable to those of the three receivers who are currently Roughriders property. The pep talk helped the 21-year-old calm down a bit on Friday when rookie camp wrapped up at Canad Inns Stadium.

“Today I felt a lot better than I did the last two days,” Etienne said. “I don’t know what was happening. I don’t know. I let the media get to me, I guess. I just let the pressure kind of get to me.

“(The meeting) kind of calmed me down. He just told me to have fun. Come out here and have fun, and you’ll be all right. That’s what really got me over the nerves, I guess.”

LaPolice has seen this movie many times before, so he expected it and he knew how to fix it. Watching so many balls hit the turf, though, is never easy for a coach.

“He’s got a lot of nerves, just like all these guys do,” LaPolice said. “We sign all these receivers, and all of a sudden they can’t catch. And you have that understanding because they have to waggle, they have to learn, ‘What am I going to do on this?’

“So it’s very interesting when you see these guys, thinking jeez, a lot of these guys don’t catch the ball well.”

There are many eyes on Etienne, a surprise selection at No. 4 in last month’s CFL draft. The 2010 season was his first as a CIS starter, so the jump to the CFL for him is huge compared to those with three and four years of Canadian college experience.

And just when he starts to feel somewhat good about his game again, now it’s time for the veterans to report. The defensive backs are going to be quicker, the presses at the line of scrimmage are going to be more intense, and the coverage is going to be tighter.

And when supplemental draft pick Kito Poblah hits the field Sunday, there will be eight Canadian receivers vying for two starting spots.

“Here I have to do all the little things right, and if I don’t then I lose, basically,” he said. “Everybody’s bigger and stronger.

“Today felt a lot better. I know tomorrow’s going to be tough with all the vets coming in, so I feel good. I needed that little boost of confidence. I feel a lot better than I did the last couple days.”

Batting cleanup

How the last five CFL fourth-overall selections have fared:

2010 Danny Watkins, B.C.

The offensive lineman was a futures selection for the Lions, and it backfired when he was drafted in the first round of this year’s NFL draft.

2009 James Yurichuk, B.C.

The linebacker made the Lions in his rookie year, registering 20 special teams tackles, one interception and a fumble recovery he returned 47 yards for a touchdown. He had five defensive and 19 special teams tackles in 2010.

2008 Keith Shologan, Saskatchewan

The defensive tackle has developed into a starter for the Roughriders, recording six sacks and 57 tackles in the last two seasons.

2007 J.P. Bekasiak, Hamilton

The Ticats cut the defensive tackle after two seasons, but he landed in Montreal last year. He had 15 tackles and four sacks as part of the Alouettes defensive line rotation last season and now has two Grey Cup rings.

2006 Ricky Foley, B.C.

The defensive end was named the CFL’s top Canadian in 2009 and parlayed that into a failed tryout with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. Now with the Argos, Foley has 21 sacks in 93 career games.


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