July 6, 2019

Landry: From last pick in the draft to CFL ironman, LBJ’s had a career like no other

Dominick Gravel/Montreal Alouettes

Luc Brodeur-Jourdain would have retired last autumn if he could have, but he didn’t want to leave his Montreal Alouettes in a possible jam.

That’s not surprising. Brodeur-Jourdain has been all about duty and dedication over the course of his 12-season CFL career, every one of those seasons spent as a Montreal Alouette.

More than a decade of slugging it out as one of the best and most durable offensive linemen in the league, come hell or high water.

And as an Alouette, he’s seen plenty of both.

“If they need me I’ll be there,” Brodeur-Jourdain remembers thinking at the end of the 2018 campaign, even though he’d had plenty of friends and family out to see what he thought would be his last home game as an Alouette, in October.

Now, at the age of 36, the native of Saint-Hyacinthe, Que. will indeed be playing his final game in the CFL, Thursday night, when the Als play host to the Hamilton Ticats.

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As the end of his remarkable career draws near, Brodeur-Jourdain is laughing about one more drug test taken, and reflecting on his longevity and durability, about teammates he’s been honoured to play with and about highlights that range from the expected things like Grey Cup victories, to the more unexpected ones, like rushing from the hospital on the day his first son was born in order to make kickoff.

All of it done with a duty-bound feeling for his team and his community.

At the beginning of the conversation, Brodeur-Jourdain is apologetic for being a wee bit hard to get hold of, but he’s also having a good laugh as to why.

A day after announcing that he was playing one more game and then hanging ‘em up, he finished practice, and spied a couple of men loitering on the sidelines.

“Are you guys waiting for me?” he recalls asking, as he walked towards them.

Yes, they answered. They were for him. And even though they knew he was retiring, they still had a job to do. They had to subject Brodeur-Jourdain to a drug test, his name having been randomly drawn.

He’d done drug tests before, even got selected in consecutive weeks a few seasons ago, oddly enough. Six or seven over the course of his career, he figures.

But now? Just before he bows out?

“It’s very funny,” laughs Brodeur-Jourdain. “It’s part of the storyline now.”

What a storyline it’s been.

. . . .

Brodeur-Jourdain is pictured during a game vs. the Riders in 2017 (Photo: Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

Luc Brodeur-Jourdain will play the 168th game of his career on Thursday night, though he was still in the dark as to how he would be deployed when the Als try to avenge last week’s loss in Hamilton.

A starter? A back up? A rotation guy? No action at all?

Won’t matter, he says. What will matter, is that he’ll have a ton of family and friends on hand to help him celebrate the ending, an ending he feels fortunate to be able to author himself.

“So many people,” he laughs, anticipating the legion of Brodeur-Jourdain connections that will be in the stands at McGill.

He tempers expectations on how the night will play out for him and, ultimately, he’s fine with how it will go.

“Whether I’m playing in the first quarter, or at the end of the game, or even if I’m not playing at all, I got the blessing to know when I would retire,” he says, gratefully. “Most guys just get a phone call at some point and it’s over.”

Some players get injured and have the decision made for them in that way. But Brodeur-Jourdain has had a notable run of mostly healthy football over the eleven seasons he’d been an Alouette prior to the 2019 campaign.

You can do the math, it’s not hard. Eighteen games in a regular season. Ten years (he did not see regular season game action the year he was drafted). A hundred and sixty seven games out of 180.

The Laval grad – the last player chosen in the 2008 draft – has missed just 13 games, reeling off five years in succession where he played every single one. In his first seven seasons, he missed two games out of 126, learning to play every position on the line before the Als made him the every day centre. The one extended down time he was forced to endure came when he injured a knee near the end of the 2015 season, missing the final game that year and a half dozen to begin the 2016 season.

There’s no real secret to that kind of durability, he claims. When you’re young, athletic ability and the body’s natural, pliable qualities allow for a player to bounce back and even avoid some injuries altogether. Then, when the age of about 30 comes, Brodeur-Jourdain says, the brain takes over, if you allow it to.

“Now it’s about the knowledge you have about the game,” he explains. “The more knowledge you have, the more you can see things coming at you. You’re able to see stuff before it happens.”

“I want to stay involved with the Montreal Alouettes for as long as I breathe. I want to help the team in any sort of way. Nothing will take away from me the fact that I am a Montreal Alouette.”

Brodeur-Jourdain on his ties to the team and the city

Durability is only one factor in safeguarding longevity, Brodeur-Jourdain says.

Proving to your bosses that you are invaluable, attitude-wise, is another way of ensuring you get to choose when you exit and Brodeur-Jourdain has done that during his time with the Als.

“You have to show that you’re reliable, that you care, and you’re willing to do more,” he says. “You have to be liked and loved by the organization and the coaches in place.”

But he found that part easy, it sounds like. Football, for him, has been and remains a passionate pursuit.

“The bottom line is that, anything you do in life, you have twenty-four hours in a day,” he says. “And if you truly care about something, you’re gonna invest more time than needed.”

On the field and off, Brodeur-Jourdain’s investments in time have paid dividends; for him, for the Alouettes, and for the community. Twice he was honoured as a CFL East all-star and once as a league-wide all-star. In 2013, he was named Montreal’s Outstanding Offensive Lineman. In 2015, he was the team’s Most Outstanding Canadian. In 2017, he won the Jake Gaudaur Veteran’s Award, saluted for, among other things, his volunteer efforts with the Alouettes’ stay-in-school program.

Ability, durability, attitude. The main ingredients in having a long, successful career.

But now it’s time to go. And to take stock of the memories.

. . . .

Despite being the last pick in the draft, LBJ went on to have a brilliant career with the Als (Dominick Gravel/Montreal Alouettes)

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were paying a visit to Montreal on Sept. 20, 2015 and Brodeur-Jourdain fully expected to be in the lineup on that day as usual.

His first child wasn’t due for another six weeks, so it seemed safe to assume the iron man would take up his usual position that day.

There were complications, however, with his wife Marie-Elaine’s pregnancy, and the two of them found themselves in the hospital, spending days and nights there as that Sunday approached.

On the morning of the game, the doctors told Marie-Elaine and Luc that it was time and their son, Noah, was brought into the world at 9:08.

“The doctor told me ‘I think you’re gonna be good to be at your game’. I was like, no way. That’s not happening.

“For sure I wanted to play the game but I didn’t want to be selfish about that moment,” he recalls. “It’s the most precious moment of my life. The days your sons are born? The most beautiful days I’ve had in my life.”

Brodeur-Jourdain made the decision that most would make and that was to stay at his family’s side, even if a sense of duty to his team was weighing on him. But Marie-Elaine had other ideas.

“My wife looked at me and she said ‘Go. You can do it’. I was like ‘are you serious?’”

“I got the blessing of my wife to leave at 11 to be at the game. I showed up on the field at 12:30 and the kick-off was at one o’clock against Winnipeg. We won the game and it was one of the most beautiful personal moments that I’ve had in my whole life.”

“Being on the field with that tremendous man . . . That tremendous leader. Amazing quarterback. Being able to block for that man was something very special. Very special. Something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. I played with A.C. I blocked for A.C.”

Brodeur-Jourdain on Hall of Fame quarterback Anthony Calvillo

Noah is now three-years-old and his brother, Adam, is two. Dad will no doubt share many moments with them as the evening goes on, but he will save some emotional room to think about some of the other highlights of his career, the ones that come second to those linked to his family.

He marvels at winning the Grey Cup in 2009, despite never leading in the game before time had officially run out. “Is that special? It is,” he says.

He looks back on two championship celebrations in Montreal with wonder, Sainte-Catherine Street being “full of so many people,” he recalls. “It was crazy.”

He lists teammate after teammate, saluting the men with whom he held down the Montreal offensive line. Then, talks about the quarterback who worked behind them for so many glorious years, Anthony Calvillo.

“Being on the field with that tremendous man,” Brodeur-Jourdain begins, trailing off to gather his thoughts. “That tremendous leader. Amazing quarterback. Being able to block for that man was something very special. Very special. Something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. I played with A.C. I blocked for A.C.”

Turning his attention to Marc Trestman, the man who led the Als through dominant years including those Grey Cups in 2009 and 2010, Brodeur-Jourdain fondly remembers the feeling that the coach fostered around the team.

“I never felt for a second in my first five years, that I was in a business,” he says. “I felt like I was in a family.”

If he had his way, Brodeur-Jourdain would freeze the good times as they happened, forever in place throughout the rest of his days.

“You live those moments with so many special people that you wish you could stay with it for the rest of your life. But the name of the game is football,” he says. “It’s made for changes.”

. . . .

After Thursday, Brodeur-Jourdain will hang his uniform up for the final time (Dominick Gravel/Montreal Alouettes)

“It doesn’t make sense to keep a guy on the injured reserve when he’s healthy,” says Brodeur-Jourdain, asked why the time is now right. “I’m healthy.”

Placed on the injured reserve list to start the season, Brodeur-Jourdain hasn’t played a down in Montreal’s first two games of the season. Wasn’t part of the pre-season mix, either.

While he could have walked away from the game over the winter – he was emotionally ready – his sense of duty to the Alouettes kept him from doing so.

“Last year when I finished the season, I personally thought that I was done with football,” he explains. “But I kept myself available to the team. Once free agency came up and the centre position was still a concern, I guess they wanted to make sure they had an insurance policy at that position.”

So he came to camp once more, signing a contract extension in March.

With Kristian Matte entrenched as the Alouettes’ starting centre, and with enough offensive line depth to make Montreal management happy, Brodeur-Jourdain is stepping aside, making room, he says, for new blood.

Mindful that contracts for injury reserve players count against the salary cap, Brodeur-Jourdain has accepted that it would be prudent for the Alouettes to spend his allotted salary and roster spot on a younger player, someone with the promise of a fruitful career ahead of them.

“I want what’s better for this organization in the long run,” he says.

The long run, he hopes, still has him in the Alouettes picture in some way and the team’s CEO, Patrick Boivin, has indicated that they would like to see that happen. If it doesn’t, Brodeur-Jourdain says he will continue to be an Alouette in any fashion possible.

“I want to stay involved with the Montreal Alouettes for as long as I breathe,” he says. “I want to help the team in any sort of way.”

“Nothing will take away from me the fact that I am a Montreal Alouette. And if my way to be a Montreal Alouette for the rest of my life is to be a season ticket holder, then I’ll still be an Alouette and I’ll still be helping the team in the right way.”

He’s been consistent in that throughout his career. No reason to think Luc Brodeur-Jordain would be anything but as he moves on from the playing field.