Ottawa Citizen

Football is a snap for Redblacks’ Bourassa


When Louis-Philippe Bourassa was a kid, he never thought much about playing football.

He was a hockey player, a right-winger. He liked watching Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. He never imagined he’d wind up a profession­al football player, a long-snapper with the Ottawa Redblacks, but it’s true.

Bourassa, the son of Michel and Agathe, played hockey for 12 years in Shawinigan. He has only played football for six.

“Hockey was my first sport, my first love,” he said. “I liked the physicalit­y of it. I used to play hockey in the street with my brother (Marc- Olivier, a goalkeeper). I was shooting pucks instead of throwing footballs my whole childhood.

“I thought about the NHL, but, when you’re playing elite level in minor hockey, you’re always gone away to tournament­s on weekends and you have school during the week. Even in the summer, I had hockey camps. I was always into hockey, always busy with it, but I wanted to have a social life, I kind of stopped because of that. My last year was peewee double A. I stopped and didn’t play sports for a while.”

After giving football a try in CEGEP (at Trois-Rivières, Que.), he taught himself to be a long snapper with the ability to whip a football through his legs to either a punter or a field-goal holder. It turned out to be his path to a pro career. The Redblacks selected him in the fourth round of the 2017 Canadian Football League draft out of the Université de Montréal.

“I remember when I was in CEGEP, I got injured. I had those boots for ankle sprains,” Bourassa said. “I started snapping just to joke around on the sideline while the guys were doing warm-ups. After the year, one of my coaches — when I was being recruited — said, ‘Keep doing that. You never know where that’s going to lead you. It might be your ticket to the CFL.’ It stayed in the back of my mind. I wasn’t really expecting anything when I went to (university). It just unravelled like this.

“If you would have asked me seven years ago, I could never have guessed I’d be standing here now. It’s been a hell of a ride. It started from trying my luck with the football team in CEGEP. I wanted to get back into sports. Six years later, I’m here in my second year.”

The fact that Bourassa flies under the radar is a good thing. He’s been very good doing what he does, contributi­ng to the considerab­le success of kicker Lewis Ward and punter Richie Leone.

“I learned to snap all by myself. I’m proud of that,” Bourassa said. “For me, it’s about not being noticed. When they have success, it makes me proud of what I do. I make their lives easier. They’re the ones who score the points or pin the other team deep.”

His role is different now from when he was in university. It’s a specific, specialize­d duty.

“It’s a different mindset,” he said. “When I played CEGEP and university, I was a fullback, tight end, slot kind of guy. I was on special teams, more than just punt and field goals. You’re involved in the game. Here, you’re only on the field maybe 15 times in a game. You have to always be ready mentally.”

Bourassa’s mother makes the trip from Trois-Rivières for Redblacks home games and for road games in Montreal. “I couldn’t ask for more than to have my mom in the stands,” Bourassa said. “She used to make it to every game back in university, too.” WRAPPING IT UP: If they win Friday at home against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers or the Toronto Argonauts lose against the B.C. Lions, the Redblacks (8-5) will clinch a home playoff game. Yet to be determined is whether that’s the East Division semifinal or final. If the Redblacks win or the Argos lose, the only team that could catch Ottawa for first in the East would be the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (7-7), against whom they have back-to-back games later this month.

BYE: Redblacks head coach Rick Campbell isn’t worried about his team’s record coming off a bye week. Including playoffs, it’s 6-7 since 2014. Regular season only, it’s 4-6. “It hasn’t really been a big topic for us,” Campbell said. “It hasn’t been a big thought process. We’ve just been thinking about playing a good Winnipeg team Friday night. I always think it’s important for guys physically to get a rest. It’s a long season, it’s a grind.”

THE ODDS SAY: The CFL Simulation suggests the Redblacks have a 99.98 per cent chance of making the playoffs, 99.98 per cent chance of hosting a playoff game and a 55.44 per cent chance of winning the East Division title. However, their odds of winning the Grey Cup are just 9.58 per cent. In the category of most likely Grey Cup matchups, Hamilton-Calgary is listed at 42.30 per cent, with Ottawa-Calgary at 34.18 per cent.

THE END AROUND: Zed Brown and Jean-Philippe Bolduc took starting reps at safety during practice Tuesday, when Antoine Pruneau nursed an injury on the sidelines. “I think (Pruneau) is going to play,” Campbell said. “We’ll know (Wednesday), but I’m hopeful he’ll play.” … The Redblacks are second in the Nissan Titan Power Rankings behind Calgary (11-2). Winnipeg ranks fifth … Redblacks QB Trevor Harris ranks fourth in the Quarterbac­k Index behind Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell, Edmonton’s Mike Reilly and Hamilton’s Jeremiah Masoli … Redblacks offensive lineman Jon Gott celebrated his 33rd birthday Tuesday.

 ?? JEAN LEVAC ?? Redblacks long-snapper Louis-Philippe Bourassa, left, says hockey was his first love. “I was always into hockey,” he says.
JEAN LEVAC Redblacks long-snapper Louis-Philippe Bourassa, left, says hockey was his first love. “I was always into hockey,” he says.
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