June 19, 2014

Moffat: The defence never rests in Montreal

Rogerio Barbosa/Montreal Alouettes

At a certain point in court proceedings they say “the defence rests”. That term, however, doesn’t apply to Montreal Alouettes linebacker Marc-Olivier Brouillette.

He’s certainly not resting on any laurels, having won the starting safety job away from 2013 Rookie of the Year candidate Mike Edem, a first-round draft pick in 2013.

“I’ve been around long enough to know that your game one depth chart is going to look nothing like your game 12 or 14 depth chart,” says the university quarterback-turned-linebacker-turned-lawyer-turned-safety.  

While that career path may not look good on a business card, it sure has turned out well enough for the 28-year old Montreal-area native, whose very own website bills himself as “CFL player-Lawyer-Husband-Father.”

“For now it’s my job (safety) but I have to make sure it remains mine,” argues the 6-foot, 230-pounder, who has defied the odds repeatedly and proven to be a quick study in many phases of his life.

Brouillette’s New Role

With training camp almost in the books, Montreal safety Marc-Olivier Brouillette is in the thick of a battle for a new starting position within the Alouettes defence.

» Read More

While he claims he never had a favourite football player or even favorite team he cheered for, the fluently bilingual Brouillette does have a legal idol: the prosecutors from “Law & Order.”

“That’s a show I’ve been watching since I first got interested in the law,” says the Universite’ de Montreal grad who passed the Quebec Bar exam in 2012, finished articling in 2013 and has officially made the Barreau du Quebec this year.

The long line of actors who have played district attorney in that show made compelling and inspired cases, hitting home far more than the clever and sometimes comical obfuscations of swag lawyers like Mike Ross and Harvey Specter from “Suits” or the laughable sleezeball from “Breaking Bad” Saul Goodman.

Brouillette is not even the sole legal eagle to grab a job among the “Ballhawks” of the Alouettes secondary in recent years. Lawyer Mathieu Proulx shared the job with another converted linebacker Etienne Boulay during the Grey Cup Repeat run of 2009-10.

Proulx and Boulay were high Als’ draft picks, but Brouillette defied long odds being only a third-round draft pick in 2010. He was eager to prove it is better to hit than be hit, by launching himself into a career as a punishing special teams hitter and linebacker after starring at QB with “Les Carabins.”

His articling on the football field resulted in 2013 career-best totals in tackles, special teams tackles, while his smarts on special teams were exhibited on a 72-yard TD run out of punt formation from his upback position.

By the time the 2013 regular season was over, the verdict was in on Brouillette: He earned the start over Edem in the Eastern Semi-Final. Now he has to manage a friendship as well as a potential job-sharing role if Edem manages to reclaim his spot.

“Outside of football we have a great relationship and a lot in common,” Marco says of the former Calgary Dino.

“We’re good friends and kept in touch during the off-season.”

“I think it’s for the benefit of the team that you have two such talented guys competing for the same spot. It can only make your team better.”

Edem did more hitting last season (49 tackles, 9 STT) and had three fumble recoveries as well as three picks (Brouillette has one career interception), but admits he must be more consistent.

“I know football is fun, competition is fun and everything is NOT all love,” says Edem. “Whatever role I play is just to help get this team to the Grey Cup.”

Let the evidence show Edem has to be more consistent in his positioning, his play recognition and adherence to the schemes of Defensive Coordinator Noel Thorpe.

Brouillette doesn’t just have a lawyer’s savvy.  Sometimes it helps for any defensive back to think like a QB.

“As a quarterback I learned you have to know exactly what’s going on in the offence everywhere, the protection scheme, the routes, what everyone’s doing,” reasons Brouillette. “I’ve taken that approach and brought it to defence, which has helped me tremendously in Thorpe’s system where it’s ‘plug and play.’”

“I’m the body type that can play in the box, can play in the secondary, so whenever we install stuff or are watching film, I’m processing the information as if I’m going to be playing multiple positions.”

Or submitting further evidence, your honour. Edem never played quarterback, though his first football hero was Donovan McNabb.

“I remember a game against the Cardinals he took a beating and they broke his ankle, but he kept coming back,” Edem recalls.  “I had such admiration for him, but since then I like hitting the quarterback.”

If Brouillette may someday talk for a living in a courtroom, Edem insists he’s happier using the silent treatment on the job.

“I’m not much of a trash-talker, I let my play do the talking. I may give a guy the thumbs up ‘Good luck to you, Man.’”

Brouilette thinks being a lawyer helps his cause.

“Intelligence and work ethic are factors,” he reasons. “I don’t want to pump my tires too much, but I’d like to give myself a little credit,” a big smile breaking across his face.

For now, better to be a lawyer on defence than a defence lawyer.

“When the summertime rolls around who wants to be couped up in an office when you can be out on the field with your buddies playing football.”

No further questions, your honour.