Amer­i­can quar­ter­back Ryan Lind­ley has fit right in with the Red­blacks’ Fran­co­phone play­ers, be­com­ing a mem­ber of the ‘French Mafia’ ... West is still by far the best ... Break­ing down the CFL’s stats lead­ers

Ottawa Sun - - SPORTS -

OT­TAWA — In a CFL mar­ket dif­fer­ent from oth­ers, an Amer­i­can from San Diego has blended right into the fran­co­phonean­glo­phone mo­saic.

Along with find­ing fran­co­phone friend­ships, quar­ter­back Ryan Lind­ley has been play­fully given a new name: Steve Va­chon.

The 28-year-old Lind­ley, a sixth-round draft pick of the Ari­zona Car­di­nals in 2012, signed with the Red­blacks as a free agent in the off-sea­son. Im­mers­ing him­self in the Cana­dian cul­ture and fit­ting in with his fran­co­phone team­mates has all been part of the ride.

“We had this cor­po­rate din­ner a cou­ple of weeks ago and he in­tro­duced him­self as Steve Va­chon,” said Red­blacks safety/line­backer An­toine

Pruneau. “He’s re­ally unique — it’s fun to be around him.”

“I’m an hon­orary fran­co­phone now, I’m Que­be­cois,” said Lind­ley with a laugh. “I don’t think it was an in­ten­tion. I’ve re­ally only been to the west coast of Canada be­fore, I wasn’t aware of the amount of Fran­co­phones here — not only in Que­bec, but here in Canada. My mother was al­most bilin­gual in Span­ish so she pushed me to stay open and learn as much as I can. I fig­ured here I’d just do the same with Que­be­cers.”

A group of the Red­blacks’ fran­co­phone play­ers like to call them­selves the French Mafia. They spend plenty of time to­gether and when they do, some­times at Pruneau’s home around a bar­be­cue, Lind­ley isn’t far away.

“They’re a fun group,” said Lind­ley. “Hang­ing around them, you have to pick up some vo­cab­u­lary here and there. The ac­cent, that’s the big­gest thing. Any­body can learn on Duolingo or Rosetta Stone or some­thing. But be­ing able to hang out with these guys, pick­ing up the French and try­ing it, know­ing when I’m screw­ing some­thing up, it helps me out.

“I pick up bits and pieces of sen­tences ... I can un­der­stand more than I speak. The No. 1 rule is they can talk

in French and if I don’t un­der­stand, that’s fine. But if they’re mak­ing fun of me, that’s over the line. If I don’t un­der­stand when I’m get­ting made fun of, that’s not cool.” Said full­back Pa­trick

Lavoie: “Ev­ery time a guy comes from down south, he says, ‘Hey, I want to learn French.’ But they don’t re­ally want to learn French. They want to learn some words they can use for trash talk on the field or for lines they can use with girls. (Lind­ley) came up here and said he wanted to learn ev­ery­thing — he wants to know how to spell it and ev­ery­thing.

“He came to Pruneau’s place and we were all French ex­cept for him. He sat there and lis­tened. He stopped us and asked ques­tions. I’d never seen that in this league.”

“We found him so funny we made him part of the crew,” said Pruneau. “As soon as his French gets bet­ter, we can make him part of the French Mafia. Speak­ing the lan­guage, he’s get­ting there, he can in­tro­duce him­self. You can tell he’s hav­ing so much fun with it, his face changes when he starts speak­ing French, he’s got a big smile.”

The Cana­dian ex­pe­ri­ence has been great so far for Lind­ley, who has two rush­ing touch­downs as a Red­black.

“I’ve loved it, it’s quite re­fresh­ing,” he said. “It’s been a blast. We were in Toronto, we went out to din­ner and walked around — it’s a lot like a New York City — it’s tough to pick up char­ac­ter and vibe. I got to visit Mon­treal. It just felt like it was so rich in his­tory. That’s re­fresh­ing com­ing from vis­it­ing places in Amer­ica where ev­ery­body’s head is down, 100 miles an hour, do­ing what­ever they need to do — not wor­ried about any­body else. Mon­treal was a very friendly place, I’ve found that here, too, in Ot­tawa.”

Lind­ley’s wife Lind­say, a com­pet­i­tive track and field ath­lete, will join him early next week and be here for a cou­ple of weeks. As a tal­ented 100-me­tre hurdler, she is com­pet­ing for Nige­ria at the world cham­pi­onships in Lon­don this week.

“She’s the bet­ter ath­lete for sure,” said Lind­ley. “South­ern Cal­i­for­nia is kind of her hub for train­ing. I told her I love it here. She’s from New York orig­i­nally and she’s ex­cited to get out here, too.”

Lind­ley loves the cul­ture that ex­ists around the team and has be­come a pitch man for the league.

“I’ve talked to mul­ti­ple guys I used to play with that have thought about com­ing up here, and I’ve pushed them su­per hard,” said Lind­ley. “A lot of the cul­ture, es­pe­cially in this locker room, brings things back to re­ally the hum­ble be­gin­nings of why we play foot­ball. It’s a fra­ter­nity, it’s a brother­hood.”

As for a French Mafia mem­ber­ship for Lind­ley down the road, Lavoie said: “Ev­ery mafia has an out­side guy. The Ital­ians have an Ir­ish guy, that’s the kind of guy we have (with Lind­ley).”

EAST IS LEAST?

Ot­tawa fin­ished in first place in the CFL East last year with a los­ing record: 8-9-1. Could it hap­pen again? Toronto leads the pack at 3-4, while Mon­treal is 2-4 with a game in hand. Ot­tawa has a win and a tie, while Hamil­ton is win­less in six. Toronto has all three of its wins against East teams, while go­ing 0-4 against the West.

It’s a heated bat­tle in the West. Ed­mon­ton has six wins, while Cal­gary and B.C. each have five, while Win­nipeg has four. Seems more and more likely that a West team will cross over into the East come play­off time.

THE NUM­BERS GAME

Toronto’s Ricky Ray leads passers with 2,421 yards. Cal­gary’s Jerome Mes­sam is the league’s top rusher with 490 yards. Ot­tawa’s Greg Elling­son is the top re­ceiver with 702 yards, with Toronto’s S.J. Green not far be­hind at 673. Ot­tawa’s Brad Si­nop­oli has the most catches with 47. B.C.’s Solomon Elim­imian is the top tack­ler with 51 (Toronto’s Bear Woods and Cal­gary’s Alex Sin­gle­ton have 45 each). Toronto has three play­ers (Vic­tor But­ler with seven and Shawn Lemon and Jeff Finley each with four) in the top 10 sack­ers. Win­nipeg’s TJ Heath is the top thief with four in­ter­cep­tions. Ot­tawa’s Kee­lan John­son is the lead­ing spe­cial teams tack­ler with 12. The Red­blacks have had their is­sues, but punt­ing isn’t one of them — Brett Ma­her leads the league with a 46.7-yard av­er­age.

THE END AROUND

Ed­mon­ton quar­ter­back Mike Reilly was a fan­tasy gi­ant last week, pass­ing for two touch­downs and run­ning for two more in his team’s 33-28 win over Hamil­ton. Reilly put up 35.8 fan­tasy points ... Chris Wil­liams, who had 1,246 yards in catches in just 14 games last year with the Red­blacks be­fore tear­ing his ACL, re­turned to the field on Satur­day, mak­ing three catches for 75 for his new team, the B.C. Lions, who beat the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers 30-15.

I’m an hon­orary fran­co­phone now, I’m Que­be­cois ... They’re a fun group. Hang­ing around them, you have to pick up some vo­cab­u­lary here and there. The ac­cent, that’s the big­gest thing. Red­blacks’ Ryan Lind­ley on be­ing a mem­ber of the team’s ‘French Mafia’

JEAN LEVAC/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

As a mem­ber of the French Mafia, Red­blacks backup QB Ryan Lind­ley has been given a new name — Steve Va­chon — by his fran­co­phone team­mates.

Eski­mos QB Mike Reilly made a lot of fan­tasy foot­ball poolies very happy last week.

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