CALGARY -- There were a lot of individual firsts for Calgary Stampeders on Friday, and the backstory in each person’s case was unique.
No fewer than four players made their Stamps debuts — a stunning number for a team this late in the season — including receiver Kenny Stafford, who’s been in Calgary for a little more than two weeks.
Then there’s fullback Wilkerson DeSouza, who was drafted by the Stamps in 2012, spent the season on the practice roster, was released at the conclusion of this year’s training camp and eventually re-signed by the Red and White on Aug. 13.
An injury to starting fullback Rob Cote allowed the Brazil-born, Toronto-raised DeSouza to play his first official game with the Stamps.
On the defensive side of the ball, defensive back Adam Berger — like DeSouza, a 2012 draftee — made his Stamps debut.
And that brings us to Etienne Legare.
Unlike Stafford, DeSouza and Berger, who were all playing their first games in the CFL, Legare has plenty of experience, even if Friday marked his first game for his new team. The defensive lineman out of the Universite de Laval played 49 games for Toronto and Edmonton before joining the Stamps in an off-season deal with the Eskimos.
Legare’s debut for his new team was put on hold when he was placed on the nine-game injury list out of training camp. Because he ended the 2012 season on Edmonton’s nine-game injury list, Legare hadn’t seen action since the Labour Day rematch on Sept. 7, 2012.
“One year and one week,” said Legare of the gap between on-field appearances. “It felt so good to be on the field again. I was so excited — I was almost too excited because I wanted to do well. But in general, I think it went pretty well. There are a lot of things that I have to improve and correct. But for my first game, I’m glad it’s out of the way.”
Legare made a couple of tackles in his Stamps debut, including a key stop in the final minute in which he prevented ballcarrier C.J. Gable from going out of bounds and forced the Ticats to burn precious seconds on the clock.
For his part, Stafford contributed a pair of catches in his CFL premiere.
“It felt great,” said Stafford, who attended training camp with the Montreal Alouettes and Miami Dolphins before joining the Stamps. “I was feeling good being back on the field. It was actually my first game that I’ve been able to play in – first true game in two years. It felt good to be out there just flying around.”
Though he’s been here a short time, Stafford is impressed with his new football home.
“It’s awesome to be on this great team,” he said. “I felt the chemistry here and you can tell right away that we have a chance to do something great if we keep working and doing what we’ve got to do.”
Legare, too, likes what he sees with the Red and White. One aspect of the club is particularly impressive for the veteran.
“Watching how the team reacts when we’re down,” said Legare. “Everybody stays calm and you can see there are a lot of veterans and that the core is so solid. There’s never any sense of panic — everybody just does their job and, more often than not, we pull out the win.”