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Isaac Owusu | Ticats.ca
HAMILTON — Courtney Stephen knows a thing or two about making changes, and just a week into training camp has been nothing different.
The six-foot, 194 pound defensive back is making the switch to field-side cornerback after playing as a safety in 2013.
“I remember a good friend of mine once told me to never label myself, so when I was playing safety I would just consider myself an athlete,” he said.
“When they first brought me in I told the coaches that I’m versatile and I’ll do whatever the team needs me to do.”
In 2013, he started 14 games and finished with 35 tackles on defence, along with four on the special teams. He also netted a recovered fumbled, forced another and defended three passes.
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“It was a great learning experience. I didn’t start a game since 2009 when I was a sophomore, and I redshirted, and then tore my ACL (at Northern Illinois University),” Stephen said.
“2013 was great for me to be back on the field and contribute on a regular basis. I played with great veterans who took me under their wing and showed me how to be a pro, how to prepare and how to do the little things on and off the field,” he added.
His season was looking stellar, but an MCL sprain suffered in the Ticats memorable Eastern Final victory against the Toronto Argonauts forced him to miss the Grey Cup.
“It was a fluke accident and I happened to get hurt. It was close enough to the Grey Cup that I didn’t have enough time to heal and play. But I took time in the offseason to rest that up. It was a long enough offseason where there was no rush and right now I’m feeling really good,” he said.
“If you’re not reaching for something outside of your grasp you’re not growing. I’m used to new things. And I embrace all of those changes I make. I like doing what’s hard and I like doing what’s new,” he states.
Making adjustments is a concept that Stephen is not averse to.
The native of Brampton, Ontario was drafted in 2012 in the second round out of Northern Illinois University. He actually transitioned south of the border after leaving Wilfred Laurier University, where he spent his first two seasons of post-secondary education.
Avoiding a CFL sophomore slump is something that Stephen prioritizes. He was vigorous in the offseason in preparation for the move.
“I worked on a lot of different things such as pressing and getting my footwork right. It wasn’t too different from what I would have usually done; it’s just a different emphasis on different things. So getting my feet and hands right, along with my eyes by working with a couple of guys helped.”
Stephen is not fazed about having too much difficulty in playing cornerback. He is fortunate that his experience influences his current role.
“Having played safety definitely helps my game since I had such a broad view of the field. Now being a field corner, I have the second best seat in the house. I can see everybody from where I stand, so it’s important that I use that to my advantage and communicate everything that I see.”