CFL stars train with Sackville, NB youngsters

SACKVILLE – Defensive tackle Etienne Légaré is anxious to play.

Etienne Légaré of the Toronto Argonauts demonstrates a game face for a group of young players in Sackville yesterday.

The 27-year-old has just returned from Cuba to wind down, mentally clear his head and get ready to play the 2010 CFL season.

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“Now, I’m ready,” he said.

Légaré is one of two Toronto Argonauts players who are in Sackville today to instruct at a football camp and to promote Moncton’s Scotiabank Touchdown Atlantic in September.

The Argos will be playing the Edmonton Eskimos on Sept. 26 at 1 p.m. at the new Stade Moncton Stadium on the campus of l’Université de Moncton. It’s the first regular-season game for the CFL in Atlantic Canada. Tickets for the event were sold out in 32 hours.

The September game is a home date for the Argonauts, who want southeastern New Brunswick to be decked out in blue come game time. Thinking of that, and from the work of the local community, they sent Légaré and running back Andre Durie to Sackville.

Légaré is coming into his second year with the Argonauts. He played four years of defensive tackle at Laval, winning two Vanier Cups in 2006 and 2008.

He is an interesting case. He didn’t start playing football until he was 20 years old. He was a basketball player at CEGEP in Trois-Rivières when football came calling.

“We didn’t have much for sports in high school. I played basketball through all four years.

“I had stopped playing basketball in CEGEP to concentrate on my studies,” Légaré said. “I was just getting through CEGEP and working on my schoolwork, and the head coach of the football team called me up and asked if I wanted a tryout.

“I went for the day, loved it, and played ever since.”

That day started a love affair with Légaré and football. After CEGEP, he enrolled at l’Université de Laval for football.

“It was something I always was hoping for as soon as I started playing,” he said. “The program there is one of the best available and I was just waiting for them to contact me.

“I had other offers, but it wasn’t close. My mind was made up.”

Légaré evolved into a dominant defensive tackle at Laval, and was a key member on two Vanier Cup-winning teams. Légaré left a lasting impression on a great football program with the Rouge et Or, but his greatest accomplishment was when the rest of Canada noticed.

“My biggest accomplishment personally would have to be the CIS Player of the Year in 2008,” he said. “I knew I was pretty good, but that was nation-wide attention. It meant a lot to me that people all over Canada were watching.”

In his rookie year, he made three tackles in limited duty.

“I didn’t see the field much last year,” he said. “Obviously, you want to see the field as much as possible. I was playing a bit of special teams and seeing the field that way, which I loved as well, but you love being on the field taking plays with the defence.”

Next season, Légaré hopes to see more action.

“I did a lot of work in the off-season on my weaknesses,” he said. “The CFL is so much faster and much harder to adjust to than the CIS. In university, you have some time to adjust to mistakes. In the CFL, there’s no time at all. The linemen are all quick thinkers and they catch you when you make a mistake.”

Légaré has done work with football camps in the past, but all in Quebec.

This is the first time he’s out of the province of Quebec for football.

He said that no matter where you go, the most fun of camps and being with the kids is watching the kids have fun.

“When you watch the kids, especially the young ones, go at it, and have no fear, it a lot of fun to watch,” he said. “To see two kids go face-to-face with each other is something I love to watch. Helping children is something that I always love to do. Watching the kids have fun and play around has always been something I enjoy.”

Both Légaré and Durie will be visiting schools in the Tantramar area today. Later this afternoon, they will instruct at the Sackville Minor Football spring camp.

The camp this year allows for young players in the area to be coached and come in contact with the professionals in the sport. It’s a unique opportunity for young football players to be face-to-face with some of the best the sport has to offer. Légaré said that he doesn’t know if young players look up to him, but he has a bit of advice.

“Always work hard,” he said. “Even if you start late like I did, just work hard and put in all your effort into what you do. Once you see the rewards of your hard work, you’ll see it’s all worth it.


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