Mustang seeks double duty

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

The football hurtled through the air and all-star safety Matt Carapella hauled it in like he has so many times in his Western football career.

Normally, no one would bat an eye as the guy most likely to end up as the Mustangs' all-time interceptions leader made another play in practice at TD Waterhouse Stadium.

But at the time, the fourth-year safety was wearing a white jersey. At Western training camp, white equals offence, which means Carapella, the receiver, is angling to turn old-style ironman and play both ways this year.

"I'm tired of getting interceptions and then getting tackled," the 20-year-old Saunders grad said. "I want to get to the end zone and score touchdowns. For training camp, I'm wearing white in the morning practices and purple (defensive ) in the afternoon."

Back in March -- way before spring camp -- Carapella talked to new head Greg Marshall about what he could do more to help the Mustangs win a title. Apparently, being an all-Canadian defensive back, one of the country's top university pickoff artists and a pretty reliable punt returner wasn't cutting it.

"I like football," Carapella said. "I want to be out there on the field. If I'm on offence, it wouldn't be the whole game. If there's 80 plays on offence a game, I hope to be in for 20 of them -- about a quarter, really."

Sensing the opportunity, the five-foot-11, 195-pound Carapella trained harder than he ever has for a football season and worked out with quarterback Michael Faulds twice a week on running routes and pass catching.

"I like to think of myself as his favourite target now," Carapella said.

Though he is clearly excited about the move, the Western coaching staff never enters into these kinds of decisions lightly.

When Saskatchewan Roughrider Andy Fantuz rewrote the Western receiving record book, then-head coach Larry Haylor dabbled with his star at defensive back now and then. The experiment paid dividends -- Fantuz made three interceptions in one game against Ottawa and he ended up second on the team that year behind Carapella's five picks.

"He had three interceptions so maybe I can get three touchdowns," Carapella said. "Andy was such an outstanding athlete that no one cared that he went on defence. It helped the team with him back there and I hope me playing offence will help the team in the same way.

"Paul (defensive co-ordinator Paul Gleason) was worried at first and said, 'It won't take away from your defensive responsibilities, will it?' But I've worked hard and I feel I'm in good enough shape to play almost every snap if I have to."

In his high school days, Carapella played both ways and served as the Sabres quarterback, "so this isn't new," he said.

Mostly, Carapella is trying to maximize his ability for a team he figures will turn out to be the best of his tenure at his hometown school

"There's an aura around this team that everyone believes in what we're doing here and that we're going to do some great things," he said. "We're going to Laval on Friday (for a Sunday preseason game) and they're the defending champs and they earned that but we're no slouches, either. We're going to have a very good football team and that's exciting."

Western was in the process of making its first cuts yesterday but Greg Marshall told a story this week on why he's not big on letting players go just for the sake of paring down numbers.

"When I was at Mac, we had 10 guys with similar talent at defensive back and we didn't know who to get rid," he said. "So we kept them all and a couple went to play rugby, another went to the wrestling team and it went like that. We had three of those guys who ended up being starters for us and if you asked me at the first training camp who of those 10 would've made it, I wouldn't have been able to tell you."


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