Bombers' Etienne ready to make his first CFL start Thursday

Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Jade Etienne goes for a pass during CFL football practice in...

Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Jade Etienne goes for a pass during CFL football practice in Winnipeg, Man. on Sunday, June 9, 2013. (BRIAN DONOGH/WINNIPEG SUN/QMI AGENCY)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:59 PM ET

Jade Etienne's CFL career has paralleled that of Investors Group Field in a strange kind of way.

Two years ago both were just getting started.

Last year everyone thought they were going to be ready for prime time, but it turned out they weren't even close.

Now -- finally -- they are both polished and primed for their big moment. On Thursday night they will make their long-awaited debuts together.

Etienne will start his first CFL game when the Bombers officially open Investors Group Field against the Montreal Alouettes. It is not yet known if Etienne has won his starting spot permanently, because the player he was competing against, Kito Poblah, got hurt in the first pre-season game.

If nothing else, Etienne has the upper hand in the battle for the W receiving position, which is the middle receiving spot on the wide side of the field. Head coach Tim Burke believes allowing him to focus solely on that position this year sped up his development.

"He's got all the reps now, so if he goes out and does a great job it's probably his job," Burke said.

Etienne was a surprise pick at fourth overall in 2011, but then head coach Paul LaPolice saw something he liked in the University of Saskatchewan product. It took a couple of long seasons and there was plenty of criticism along the way, but it looks like Etienne has finally found his comfort zone at the pro level.

The 23-year-old wasn't sure when his first start would come, nor did he think about it too much, so he didn't put too much pressure on himself.

"I had no idea," Etienne said. "I knew the first year was going to be a battle and then I would just take it from there. I didn't expect to start or anything coming in my first year, but as the second year came on I felt like I could do it in the next year or the next couple years at least."

In that sense, his first career start is arriving sooner than expected, but he has earned the job even if Poblah is hurt. Etienne's parents are coming to town from their home in B.C., and his girlfriend Amy will also be in the IGF crowd on Thursday night.

"I'm really happy for him," Burke said. "He's really worked hard in the off-season and training camp and mini-camp and all that. He's really worked hard, and he's matured greatly from when he first got here."


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