June 11, 2012
Kent is Bombers' silent assassin
By Paul Friesen, Winnipeg Sun
WINNIPEG - Maybe a bigger mouth or a flashy nickname would help get him on the all-star team.
Some trash talk would certainly get him more ink.
But I guess that’s just not Clint Kent’s style.
A perfect example of the Blue Bomber linebacker’s nature is how he handled his last real job, as a substitute teacher in Macon, Ga., his hometown.
Instead of telling his elementary school class about his status as a football player, thereby gaining instant credibility, Kent kept mum on the subject.
“They really didn’t know that,” he said.
You wouldn’t necessarily know Kent is one of the more notable residents of Swaggerville, either, not when people like Jovon Johnson, Jonathan Hefney and, previously, Odell Willis were grabbing the headlines.
On one of the more deadly units in the CFL, Kent is the quiet assassin, content to do his job for the greater good.
But his play begs a little more attention, his back story worth a deeper look.
This is a 29-year-old who was virtually out of the game, buried deep in pro football’s scrap heap from 2007-09.
After a decent rookie season with Montreal in 2006, Kent received his pink slip in training camp in ’07.
A shot at AFL2, the second tier of the Arena League, was cut short when he tore his ACL in 2008.
That’s when Kent took a flyer on football in Finland, of all places.
“Coming off my ACL surgery, I just wanted to go test my knee out,” he explained. “I went and played in Finland for a month and it was a great experience. I was returning, playing receiver and corner.”
The 2010 season came along, as did the Bombers, and Kent’s transformation from castoff to key contributor has been remarkable.
His stats last year: third on the team with 56 defensive tackles, a dozen more on special teams, four sacks, three pass knockdowns and a fumble recovery — in 16 games.
Other qualities don’t show up on the stats sheet.
“Leadership. Enthusiasm. He’s very intelligent, so he helps get everybody lined up,” defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke said. “And then he just plays all-out all the time.”
Yet, hardly anybody talks about him.
“He’s not a guy who’s going to be out there and say controversial things or anything like that,” Burke said. “But he’s vocal amongst his teammates.
“Very underrated. He’s a very good football player in this league.”
Make that suggestion to Kent, that he’s underrated, and he simply shrugs.
“I don’t get into all that,” he said. “I just show up and do my job.”
Suggest he’s due to grab some headlines of his own, perhaps even make a run for an all-star nod, and he doesn’t blink.
“At the end of the day it’s all about the Grey Cup ring. I couldn’t care less about individual stats. This is a team sport.”
You’ll get a spark from Kent, though, when you ask him about his second chance at football.
As much as he loved teaching, he appreciates his current job like few others.
“Of course I appreciate it more,” Kent said. “I kind of went from being on top to having nothing for three years. Even when I played Arena and tore my ACL, we were making $160 a week, so it makes you appreciate it. That’s what I try to preach to the younger guys. You can’t take this for granted. You never know when it might be taken.”
Kent says he never doubted his ability to make it back.
He had his No. 1 role model, his dad, pushing him.
“I just believed,” he said.
And while he may be one of the older players on a team that preaches youth, you get the impression he’s not going anywhere for a while.
“I’m nowhere near peaking,” Kent said. “I had three years off. My body feels great. I just come here and go 100 miles an hour every day.
“I was just trying to get back to this point. Now I’m back. So I’m just blessed to be in the position I am today.”