The Geoff Tisdale way has always been about trying new things.
The defensive back wishes he could pick up more of the French phrases he’s heard since joining the Montreal Alouettes as a free agent this season; he’s always tried to embrace change.
When Tisdale was running track and playing basketball in high school, he listened to the advice of a friend who suggested he try out for football.
The Los Angeles native uprooted for college, traveling 1,600 miles across the country to play football at Pittsburgh State University. Pittsburgh is a sleepy town of 20,000 that falls on the border of Kansas and Missouri. It couldn’t be farther from California in terms of geography, population, or culture.
|Getting back on Track|
“Most people would say it was a shock, but I liked it. I was in California for all my life, 19 years, so it was was time to go,” Tisdale said, joking that he was on the first plane out of LAX. “I wanted to see something different, I wanted to see something new, so I thought ‘Kansas.’”
Tisdale had friends who left California and came back complaining about being homesick. He was never that guy.
Once the import got used to the motion of an offence running at him, the big move to the CFL in 2008 was exactly the kind of thing Tisdale could excel at. Now 27, he can’t believe he’s here.
He's not in Kansas, anymore.
“Man, you don’t know how many times I’ve said that [time flies]. I still can’t believe how fast six years went by. I remember my first game. I remember my first interception,” he said. “We have eight games left; it’s going to be seven years soon.”
The defensive back posted his first interception against then-Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray. Even as a new face in the Canadian game, Tisdale knew the importance of that play.
“When I got that first interception, I knew I had to be doing something right because I knew [Ricky Ray] is doing everything right,” he said. “I’ve been a fan of Ricky Ray since i’ve been up here. I’ve been a fan of [Anthony] Calvillo. I’ve been a fan of Henry Burris.
“To me, those are the three top quarterbacks in this league, so if you can make a play on them, you’re headed in the right direction.”
Tisdale posted a career-high season with the Tiger-Cats in 2010, with 58 tackles and four interceptions. He signed with Calgary as a free agency in 2011, and was traded back to the Tiger-Cats the following season.
The 2013 Alouettes have been far from a smooth ride. A slow start saw head coach Dan Hawkins let go and general manager Jim Popp taking the reins at the beginning of August. It’s going to take time, but football in Montreal is slowing getting back to the Alouettes way.
“I’ve noticed a big difference [in August]. A big difference,” Tisdale said. “Popp, he puts us first. He puts our bodies first. He makes sure we get a lot of rest but at the same time he wants quality work out of us.”
|'Doing something right'|
- Geoff Tisdale
On the field, things have started to click. It’s individual performances, like seven tackles for Tisdale in the Alouettes’ 37-30 loss Sunday, combined with the team’s efforts to communicate with one another that are turning things around.
It’s late in the season, but there’s still time to turn the corner with everyone on board and Popp sitting in the driver’s seat. And remember: Tisdale will always welcome the opportunity to learn something new.
“The biggest thing is that we’re sticking together. Everybody knows it hasn’t been pretty for us all year, but we’re not letting outside things come between us,” he said. “Everybody’s being a man about the situation...we know we have to get out of this tough situation, but we’re sticking together.”
Tisdale has welcomed his place in the Montreal veteran's circle, even if he says it was a little like suddenly turning the lights on, realizing he was the one who people would come to for help, advice, and questions about the game.
Entering Week 12, he’s already bested his last two seasons, posting 38 defensive tackles and the first two sacks of his six-year career.
“I want to be hitting on all cylinders. I should know the game well, I should know and recognize everything that i’m seeing,” Tisdale said, of feeling like veteran status snuck up on him. “When I look at offences, I know exactly what I’m looking at. I can predict some things from previous years of seeing it so much.”
The CFL is the perfect place for someone like Tisdale, who will always want to try something new. Off the field, it’s all of the great food that vibrant Montreal has to offer. On the field, he’s trying a few new things, too.
Tisdale put Montreal on the board first Sunday, picking up Argos receiver John Chiles fumble and returning it 47 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.
“If you give the game a chance to grow onto you, it’s an exciting game. It’s a fun game,” he said. “You’re never out of it and anything can happen in the CFL.”