- Free Agency
Tending to his wife following her recent injuries suffered in a shark attack could not and would not distract Jim Popp from the feeding frenzy of CFL GMs on Draft Day.
Maybe it even inspired him.
“I’ve never seen anything like that…it was an onslaught,” Popp said from his North Carolina home the morning after.
“The flurry of trades, phones were buzzing. You had one team on one line, another team on the other making offers left and right.”
Having earlier rejected offers to move up the food chain, Popp agreed to a slide down a spot in a trade with his former assistant Marcel Desjardins of the REDBLACKS and still managed to land “The Big One”.
|Related: 2014 CFL Draft
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David Foucault is a six-foot-seven, 310-pound barrel of trouble for opposing defensive linemen.
Despite being only three years removed from converting to the offensive side of the ball, former Eskimos head coach (not to mention Als’ assistant) Danny Maciocia predicts “a long CFL career”.
That is if the Montreal Carabins left tackle does not wriggle off the hook and land in the NFL.
“That’s the calculated risk we take,” admits Popp, who will be able to keep tabs on Foucault easily as Carolina Panthers mini-camp this weekend is only a 20 minute drive away.
“I’m going to try to sneak in and see if I can watch him a little bit.”
“What we’re comfortable with is he grew up an Alouette fan, he always wanted to be an Alouette and he’s from our home town. He’s one of the best players in the draft and we know if he doesn’t stick in the NFL he’ll be happy to come to us.”
CFL agent Darren Gill calls Foucault “electrifying, people gravitate to him and his sense of humour” not to mention “stud freak athletic ability.”
Gill confirms Miami and several other NFL clubs were interested in the prospect.
The fact that the fifth overall selection is a lifelong Alouettes fan whose favorite player is Anthony Calvillo is only a bonus.
With the retirements of Andrew Woodruff and Scott Flory, the Als still feel they have time to groom him at guard, and the succession plan may ultimately be to keep the tackle position – still the undisputed domains of Josh Bourke and Jeff Parrett – Canadian.
While defence was the Alouettes’ strength in 2013, the 10th overall pick was invested in Andrew Lue of Queen’s, a possible Mike Edem clone.
“He’s very physical, puts his hands on receivers,” says Popp. “We think he can have an impact immediately on special teams and can move around from corner to halfback and possibly to Wil or Sam linebacker.”
Casting lines in the middle and late rounds is a Popp speciality, and once again the only architect the Alouettes have known since their rebirth in 1996 is pleased with his third and fourth round catches.
“I call him Quadzilla,” Popp raves of James Tuck, a 4th rounder from York. “He has massive thighs. He may be able to play defensive end or linebacker for us.”
“I’m ecstatic I can’t even measure,” Tuck gushed over the phone soon after his call from the Alouettes happily interrupted his tracking the draft via cfl.ca.
“Foley’s been pretty inspirational, taking me aside at spring workouts, showing me little things,” Tuck says of Foley’s off-season visits.
An admitted Argos fan in the past, Tuck has also trained with James Yurichuk.
“I look up to him. He’s got a high motor and I like to think I have one as well.”
Popp’s annual sleeper may be third round selection Jeff Finley from Guelph.
“He’s the ‘Klassen’ of this draft,” insists the GM. “Michael Klassen took it to the next level for us last year and we really feel Finley is that guy.”
Last November, Finley was cheering AGAINST the Als in their playoff loss to the Ticats. He’d met several, including Henry Burris.
The St. Catharines native is a long-time Hamilton fan but will be a quick study on Alouette culture thanks to fellow Gryphon alums Ryan Bomben and Jake Piotrowski.
Small football world: Finley’s defensive coordinator Kevin MacNeill is a former Alouette, for all of three days on a free agent tryout.
“I don’t think I even had a cup of coffee,” MacNeill chuckles. But Finley’s work ethic is no joke.
“He’s extremely physical, quick and hardworking.”
Finley should also be a quick study, he’s a science student studying advanced anatomy.
“He knows his way around a cadaver,” reveals Coach MacNeill.
Getting his hands on live quarterbacks should be no problem.
Popp must have studied paleontology before the draft, because he could not go a year without selecting another Dinosaur.
“It’s an honour to join the University of Calgary Alouettes,” said Mac Sarro, of joining Klassen, Edem, not to mention Steven Lumbala.
“I know I can contribute right away on special teams…I like to hit people,” the fullback/tight end confesses.
“I love putting the work hat on, hitting hard, running fast, like gritty guys Rob Cote and Nik Lewis of the Stampeders.”
Sarro’s biggest problem may be converting his father, a long-time Stampeders season-ticket holder and former Calgary Colts junior alum to cheer for the Als.
“Dad will be easy to convince,” Sarro reassures.
In all, eight players from six different CIS schools are all family now.