Old-school coach­ing

Vet­eran co-or­di­na­tor Mark Nel­son will have Red­blacks’ de­fence ready for Sun­day Grey Cup game

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY NEIL DAVID­SON

The fledg­ling Red­blacks have wasted lit­tle time brand­ing their de­fence.

Ot­tawa’s de­fen­sive line­men and lineback­ers are dubbed Cap­i­tal Pun­ish­ment. The de­fen­sive sec­ondary is known as D Block.

“There is definitely the same swag­ger but we go about things a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ently than D Block does,” ex­plained six-foottwo 251-pound de­fen­sive line­man Shawn Lemon.

“Cap­i­tal Pun­ish­ment is a lit­tle more hands on,” he added with a me­nac­ing smile.

While the Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos and head coach Chris Jones, a de­fen­sive guru, have oc­cu­pied most of the de­fen­sive spot­light go­ing into Sun­day’s Grey Cup, the Red­blacks have their own de­fen­sive chops.

Over­see­ing the Ot­tawa de­fence on the side­lines — with help from head coach Rick Camp­bell — is vet­eran co-or­di­na­tor Mark Nel­son.

Nel­son, a Nick Nolte looka­like com­plete with grav­elly voice, is old-school foot­ball through and through.

“An old, tough ball coach type of guy,” said line­backer Da­maso Munoz. “He’s a great coach, man, and I’m happy to play for him.”

His late fa­ther, of­fen­sive tackle Roger Nel­son, is on the Eski­mos Wall of Hon­our. He played 13 sea­sons for Ed­mon­ton be­tween 1954 and 1967, was named the league’s Most Out­stand­ing Line­man in 1959 and was in­ducted into the Cana­dian Foot­ball Hall of Fame in 1985.

Mark Nel­son made his CFL de­but in 1980 with Calgary, play­ing six sea­sons as line­backer and full­back be­fore re­tir­ing in 1987 with the Saskatchew­an Roughrid­ers.

His old­est son Kyle Nel­son, one of his kids, is a long snap­per for the San Francisco 49ers.

Camp­bell brought Mark Nel­son to Ot­tawa. They met in 2006 and worked to­gether in Win­nipeg and Ed­mon­ton.

“The play­ers be­lieve in him,” said Camp­bell. “He was a player and gets what it’s like be­ing a player, in­ter­acts well with them.”

Nel­son, who man­ages to come across as a craggy but youth­ful 59 year-old, is equally com­pli­men­tary about his 44-year-old boss.

“Not very of­ten have I heard a coach just talk­ing to his play­ers and at the end the play­ers start clap­ping,” he said.

Camp­bell’s forte as an as­sis­tant coach was de­fence and spe­cial teams al­though he has worked with the of­fence.

“Foot­ball is his spe­cial­ity ... he has an un­be­liev­able foot­ball mind,” said Nel­son.

“I don’t like to com­pare him to his fa­ther but Hugh Camp­bell was al­ways ahead of peo­ple and Rick Camp­bell is the same way,” he added. “He’s ahead of ev­ery­body.”

Nel­son plays down his own con­tri­bu­tion.

“I al­ways tell peo­ple I’ve never really worked. I played and then when I couldn’t fool them any more that I could play good, I thought, ’Well shoot I’ll coach.’ I’ve been fool­ing them since.”

CP PHOTO

Ot­tawa Red­blacks’ Ab­dul Kan­neh has a close look at the Grey Cup dur­ing the team break­fast Thurs­day in Win­nipeg.

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