OAKVILLE – With first day jitters at rookie camp now behind him, Jermaine Gabriel is feeling more like himself.
“The first day of rookie camp I was running around like a chicken with his head cut off, but now I’m into the flow of things,” he said. “I get to see how practices run and I’m just fitting in with the guys.”
A native of Scarborough, Ontario, Gabriel was 17th overall in the 2013 CFL draft. He was the first person in CFL history to be selected to move from a regional combine to the national combine. He played with the Calgary Colts of the CJFL where he was named the Prairie Conference MVP after recording 287 tackles and four interceptions.
“I came to training camp a little out of shape but the way they’re running us on top of everything else, I’m back in shape,” Gabriel explained. “It’s fun to be out here with the guys, meeting new people and playing football.”
Gabriel, an athletic and versatile defensive back who Toronto Argonauts general manager Jim Barker compared to Matt Black “in terms of skill set,” said training camp is all about adjusting, improving, and focusing on his own performance. When asked how he would rate himself after training for the first time with Toronto Argonauts veterans on Sunday afternoon, a soft-spoken Gabriel gave himself a modest evaluation.
“I could never give myself a ten,” he answered. “Every day there’s room to get better. Today I’m a seven. I made some plays and didn’t make any mental errors. Tomorrow maybe I’ll be an eight.”
To be a nine or a ten, Gabriel will continue to follow in the footsteps of veteran Argonauts by “running just as hard and communicating like they do.”
“Their work ethic is unbelievable,” he noted. “It’s real out here. You need to run hard, play hard, everything you do is hard. We’re on the same team, but at the same time, we’re all competing for a spot. It’s tough out here, but that’s football.”
For Alberta native Cleyon Laing, nothing about camp has been more surprising than the treatment he’s received from the veterans.
“The veterans are more welcoming than I had expected,” he said. “They’ve been putting in their ‘two cents worth’ to help us out.”
Laing was drafted 9th overall by the Argonauts during the 2012 CFL draft. He was selected as a futures prospect as he still had one more season of eligibility at Iowa State University. During his senior year with the Cyclones, he accumulated 42 tackles and three sacks in 12 games.
“I’m just trying to get used to the guys and working with them on the field,” Laing said. “I’m getting used to diagnosing run blocks and realizing where to fit in during offensive plays.”