June 16, 2011

Rookies fight through jitters in first pro game

Vicki Hall
Calgary Herald

CALGARY — Anthony Parker tried, without much luck, to take his mind off the magnitude of the pending moment. He drove to the mall to buy new cleats and receiving gloves. He hung around with his girlfriend. Surfed the Internet. Aimed the remote control at the television with his feet up and his mind elsewhere.

“I can’t even remember what I watched,” the Calgary Stampeders rookie said Wednesday night as darkness fell on his hometown. “Guess it wasn’t all that important.”

In terms of importance, nothing could match the event pencilled in for 7 p.m. .at McMahon Stadium.

Sure, the Stamps fell 24-0 to the B.C. Lions. And sure, Parker dropped one sure catch and failed to reel in a couple tough ones. But this cool, drizzly night marked a first for Parker. The same applied to Calgary quarterback Brad Sinopoli and running back Matt Walter in their first games as professional football players.

Yes, it was pre-season. But the rookies will remember this match for the rest of their lives.

“All in all, just a great day,” said Parker, the son of former Stampeder running back Anthony Parker. “A great experience. There’s going to be a lot for me to learn from it for next week.”

The game film will show the University of Calgary product catching two passes for 13 yards — and a couple that got away.

“As a receiver, you need to have a short memory if a pass goes through your hands,” he said. “You just need to go out there and do your assignment again. If you let it get to you, the next pass and the next pass after that will probably go through your hands as well. It’s just about getting your mind right.”

For Walter, the trick is to not let his mind take over and think too much. “I always go through things in my head over and over again,” said Walter, also from the U of C. “That can get to my nerves, but I think it did OK.”

Walter threw a nice block in the fourth quarter on the field where he dominated at the CIS level with the Dinos. But this is the big time.

“Coming out of the helmet was pretty cool,” Walter said. “The fireworks were going. The cheerleaders had their little tunnel set up. That was pretty cool. That’s when I knew it was the CFL.”

The odds are stacked against Brad Sinopoli as a Canadian quarterback trying to making a living in the Canadian Football League (go figure.) But the University of Ottawa product showed some poise in his professional debut with 5-of-11 passes completed for 33 yards.

“It’s a lot faster than I’m used to,” said Sinopoli, 23. “I played nine minutes, and I learned a lot in those nine minutes about how quickly I have to release the ball and how much time I have back there.”

In short: not much.

“I’m going to watch the film and see how I can improve.”

Technically, Marco Iannuzzi plays for the enemy now as a member of the B.C. Lions. But the Harvard product (and Calgary native) had a massive cheering contingent on hand for his first game as a pro.

“I shook my dad’s hand before the game, and he seemed to have a lot of pride in his eyes,” Iannuzzi said. “And my mom was up in the stands as well. She had a few tears when I saw her at the end of the game. Emotional.”

He smiled wide.

“It’s a very happy day.”

Courtesy: www.calgaryherald.com