Maciocia lends a hand

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:09 AM ET

JACKSONVILLE, Florida -- Jerome Messam hugged his head coach as he stood in line to get his gold medal. Then the Brampton Bulldog bent down and said something in the ear of Danny Maciocia which brought a tear to the eyes of the Edmonton Eskimos head coach.

Messam had just carried the Canadian bacon for 308 yards to win the gold medal at the NFL Global Junior here last night with a come-from-behind 38-35 win over the U.S.

"I thanked him for the opportunity to come here. He found me a sponsor to come here,'' said the running back who autographed a letter of intent with Rutgers at 8:15 a.m. on Wednesday morning. "I couldn't come last year because I didn't have the money. I just wanted to be here. It cost $2,500. He found it for me.''

All players pay their way to play for Canada at this event. Maciocia wouldn't say who the sponsor was other than he was from the Toronto area.

DOING MORE

People around the team, which included Eskimos' Dan Kepley on the coaching staff and Edmonton trainer Dwayne Mandrusiak, said Maciocia did more for him than that.

"What I did is take a kid who has no structure in his life, a kid who comes from a pretty tough background and, in a short period of time, try to break him and build him,'' said Maciocia. "The road for him has been really hard. But, as you saw today, he's a talent.

"If he doesn't play pro ball, it'll be his fault. I tried to get the message through to him that in order for you to be special, it's not going to fall in your lap.

"And I'm going to follow his career now. If I hear that he's dragging his ass The 6-foot-3, 235-pound tailback certainly didn't drag his butt here.

He carried 39 times. That's an average of 7.89 yards against a defence of future U.S. college football players. Two of his carries were for TDs. He also rushed for 258 in Wednesday's mini-games.

"It was so great to be here representing our country with pride,'' said the Grade 12 student, who switched from high school to junior football in Brampton "because I was too big for high school. On the first carry I was scoring touchdowns.''

Come to think of it, that's a lot what it looked like he was doing here as Canada won the event for the second time in six years of competing for the title.

"He's awesome. He was a dominating player. He took over,'' said quarterback Danny Brannagan of the Burlington Stampeders, who almost threw it away, giving the U.S. the lead with a touchdown interception.

"This is awesome. We were going against guys who signed with Wake Forest and big U.S. schools, and you'd think they'd just blow us off the ball. But our Canadian guys handled them,'' said offensive lineman Darren Hinds of Sherwood Park, who stepped in to replace injured Garret Degenhardt of the same Edmonton bedroom community and won a tournament all-star spot.

As is the case with all NFL Global Juniors, Team USA is made up of high school seniors from the Super Bowl host area.

With the exception of three Sherwood Park offensive linemen, two of them who play for the Edmonton Wildcats, all the other players on the Canadian team were from Ontario and Quebec where Maciocia had a camps to pick the team which he brought down here a week before the event began.

Maciocia coached the team at the Global Junior last year, lost the final 31-0, figured out what he needed to do to come back and enjoy a success this time around.

Derek Dowdell, the other player from Sherwood Park, was one of the players on that team last year.

"It was great to come down here and beat the Americans at their own game,'' he said.

HOME COOKING

Maciocia did a few things in dealing with international executives to try get the home cooking of the officiating crew they witnessed Wednesday, out of this game.

Maciocia, who found the money to get Messam here, is also determined that money can be found to get these players rings to go with their medals.

"I found out the Americans had their fingers sized by a ring company before the game and used that for all it was worth.''

There was a tonne of coaching involved in what happened here, especially when you consider Canada didn't really have a quarterback, while Riley Skinner of Team USA is somebody you'll hear from again.

But it wasn't Maciocia's name which went on this game.

It was Messam's.


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