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 — 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’
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.