Could your life change with one phone call? Could a team’s entire season?
The Montreal Alouettes are about to find out.
A few months ago, 31-year old Kyries Hebert resorted to a real life ‘phone-a-fiend’, however, he was really reaching out to someone he by reputation alone.
If you believe that defence still wins championships, then the result of the phone call might just make the Als serious contenders for the historic 100th Grey Cup in November.
Like a cat, the former Tiger-Cat had gone through most of his nine pro football lives. So after a season of rejection in 2011 he hit the number in his cell phone he’d been reluctant to call for a year.
Former Alouette Ezra “Itty Bitty” Landry, had bumped into Kyries back home in Louisiana.
He’d given the punishing former Ottawa Renegade and Blue Bomber the fateful phone number, however, he failed to hand him the courage or desperation to call.
“I wasn’t ready to give up on football, but it sure seemed like football was ready to give up on me,” said Hebert.
“I was ready to move on with my life, but being away for a year made me realise how much I miss it.”
Hebert made the call.
Jim Popp happily answered.
Montreal’s East Division Semi-Final loss to the Tiger-Cats was surely a wakeup call for Popp and the rest of the team’s management. Allowing 52 points will certainly do that to you.
That being said, they were willing to take a chance.
Hebert agreed to show up at the Als’ spring mini-camp for a free agent tryout and won an invite to full blown training camp.
Once feared as one of the most vicious hitters in Canadian Football, he’s onto his eighth pro team.
“I can’t say that I’ve ever wanted anything more than this,” said Hebert. “Nothing.”
“NFL or CFL, I was younger and felt I’d always have opportunity. This may be the last opportunity. I’m here now.”
“We have a great group of guys who want to do things the right way for the right reasons. There’s nothing more that I want than to be a part of this organization.”
Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman, though he’s known the safety for only two months, has been impressed with him thus far.
“His demeanour’s been awesome, his leadership excellent,” Trestman admitted.
“With the people in this room and the coaching staff we have, we’re very hungry,” Hebert said just days after Etienne Boulay was let go in part to make room for the American at the safety position.
“Boulay was a great teammate. I only knew him for a short time but we became friends,” Hebert says of the popular now ex-Alouette.
“I’d like to think I bring a lot of energy and a lot of leadership at this stage in my career. Yes I do have the reputation of being a big hitter,” says the 6’3”, 220-pounder who has transitioned from defensive back to linebacker to safety. “I enjoy the physicality of the game.”
“Coach Reinebold has a lot of tricks up his sleeve and I’m very excited for what the future may hold for us.”
“You learn more from winning than losing,” Don Mathews once said in Montreal. But the Alouettes may have learned more about their striking new defence in two pre-season losses than they could have in victory.
When the Als open their regular season in Calgary, Anthony Calvillo and the offence should have enough fireworks packed to make Canada Day sizzle, but the real spark must come from Reinebold’s defence.
In their final exhibition test the Als battered Ricky Ray with a sack and two picks in the Argos’ first three series alone.
“I always wanted to hit Ricky,” grinned former Eskimo turned Alouette free agent acquisition Rod Davis with malicious intent. “But we weren’t allowed in practice.”
Ray will be seeing plenty of his former teammate now that they are East Division rivals. Big heat on gunslingers from the West like Smilin’ Hank Burris will have to be cranked up, too.
The team’s defence will have to hit its stride quickly if Calvillo shows any signs of aging before or after his 40th birthday in August.
Perhaps the most serious area of concern is deficiencies on special teams. Noel Devine and Trent Guy are only the latest in the revolving door since Chad Owens was dumped in a trade before he defected to the Argos..
The four-way race to represent the East in the 100th Grey Cup could be unprecedented. The Als’ new defence will either swallow opposing quarterbacks and dominate or the East could devour itself.
All four teams could batter each other into 9-9 records. Even eight wins for a fourth-place team in the East is possible, and would be the most wins ever by a basement team in the division.
Let the Arms Race begin.