Back to­gether once again

New Stamps’ ca­reers have a few par­al­lels

Calgary Herald - - Sports - MICHAEL PETRIE CAL­GARY­HER­ALD

It’s only nat­u­ral Keron Wil­liams and Shan­non James should make their pro foot­ball de­buts on the same play­ing field. Con­sider th­ese facts: On Sept. 7, 2002, they each played their first col­lege game at the Univer­sity of Mas­sachusetts — a 52-3 win over Cen­tral Con­necti­cut State.

On Nov. 9, 2005, their col­le­giate ca­reers ended to­gether with a loss to Hof­s­tra.

On May 1, 2006, they both signed Na­tional Foot­ball League con­tracts — Wil­liams with the Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers and James with the Bal­ti­more Ravens.

On Sept. 10, 2006, they both joined the Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers.

On Oct. 15 — this com­ing Sun­day — their Cana­dian Foot­ball League ca­reers take flight at McMa­hon Sta­dium against the B.C. Li­ons. James will start at strong-side line­backer and Wil­liams will play de­fen­sive end.

“Keron’s girl­friend had a dream one time that we’d be play­ing to­gether on the same team,” James said, on Fri­day af­ter­noon. “To be here with him . . . it’s crazy.”

Not only did th­ese for­mer Min­ute­men wear the same colours for four years, they’ve ac­tu­ally been good friends since their sopho­more sea­son in 2003. Last year, they were de­fen­sive co-MVPs for the team and now they’re shar­ing a down­town apart­ment and chas­ing the same dream.

“When I first thought about com­ing up here, I was like, ‘ Ah, I don’t know, Canada . . .’ said James, a Di­vi­sion 1-AA All-Amer­i­can the past two sea­sons. “But, when I heard he was com­ing, I was ex­cited about go­ing. I’ve got some­body go­ing through the same thing I’m go­ing through and I’m tight with him. It helps a lot.”

Since the duo ar­rived last month, all they’ve done is turn heads at nearly ev­ery prac­tice. With the Stamps pre­par­ing for a play­off push, the rook­ies now have a chance to fig­ure promi­nently.

They’re phys­i­cally fresh, ea­ger to play and, ap­par­ently, ca­pa­ble of mak­ing a quick im­pact.

“We com­ple­ment each other — I get to the quar­ter­back, he gets the pick,” said Wil­liams, re­fer­ring to their track record. “To­gether, we’re go­ing to bring a lot of speed to the defence, in­stincts, get­ting to the quar­ter­back.

“I’m just look­ing at the op­por­tu­nity as try­ing to win the next play. I don’t care about the next game or any­thing like that. When you win the next play, good things will hap­pen.”

A six-foot-one, 254-pounder, Wil­liams earned a shot with the Bucs be­cause of his stel­lar se­nior sea­son. He’s a tad small for an NFL end but could fit well in the Cana­dian game. James knows that bet­ter than any­one. “He’s trash,” he joked, with Wil­liams within earshot. “No, he played a lot of games hurt and he still dom­i­nated. I know a kid who got drafted by Pitts­burgh in the fourth round, I was work­ing out with him be­fore the draft, and he said Keron’s the best d-end he’s ever played against. He said he’s way un­der­rated. I’ve seen him dom­i­nate games by him­self.

“Against New Hamp­shire in our ju­nior year — he had three (two) sacks, a forced fum­ble and a fum­ble re­cov­ery. He was killing their tackle. It was bad. It was like he was play­ing a high-school kid. He was bull-rush- ing, go­ing past him, ev­ery­thing.”

At five foot 10, 195 pounds, James is small for a line­backer, but he has a knack for mak­ing plays. Stamps gen­eral man­ager Jim Barker was told by the Ravens’ di­rec­tor of pro per­son­nel that James was their top-ranked col­lege player, in terms of sheer pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Asked to pick his favourite James per­for­mance, Wil­liams strug­gled.

“There’s just so many to chose from,” said the line­man. “I’d have to say the same game be­cause he had three picks and he took one to the crib. It was called back, but I still count it be­cause it wasn’t a penalty”

Both play­ers are signed through the 2007 sea­son with a club op­tion for ’08.

Cal­gary de­fen­sive line­man Keron Wil­liams, left, and de­fen­sive back Shan­non James are team­mates one more time.

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