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As Kamar Jorden stood encircled by interrogators on Sunday evening after a tough Grey Cup loss in Ottawa, constantly being prodded into reliving a waking nightmare, into revisiting that fumble and verbalizing his pain, those of us of a certain vintage, a particular generation, couldn’t help but experience a flashback.
To April 30, 1986, the doors opening to an empty Edmonton Oilers dressing room up north at Northlands Coliseum.
Completely deserted save a solitary figure, hunched in his stall, eyes red and leaking, huge sobs racking his body.
A 23-year-old kid named Steve Smith, whose bank shot a half-hour earlier off the left leg of his own goaltender Grant Fuhr turning out to be the second-round series-winning goal for the Calgary Flames, (temporarily) derailing the Oilers’ Stanley Cup dynasty.
Yes, that goal.
Emotions as raw as meat in a butcher’s window, Smith, just a kid, a rookie, hung in and answered every painful, probing question tossed at him like live grenades.
No hiding. No excuses.
On his birthday, no less.
You knew witnessing such a display that, no matter where his career might take him, Smith would turn out to be a good pro.
Sunday, feeling every bit as awful, Kamar Jorden hung in, too.
Pros do the hard stuff.
“Yesterday,’’ said Jorden at the Stamps’ final media availability Tuesday morning at McMahon Stadium, again going in front of media to answer their questions, “I kinda went over everything. I woke up, I had over 100 text messages, notifications on Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff.
“I went through it all. I read everything, the good and the bad. You’ve gotta embrace it, you can’t hide from it.
“It’s going to be with you, so the sooner I can look it in the eye, learn from it and grow from it will be the best situation for me.
“I got some good responses from family, friends, fans around the CFL, teammates.
“That helps a little bit. But it still hurts. I’m just going to try and move on as best I can.”
The moment is seared into the minds of football watchers across the country and likely will be for some time: Jorden’s failure to secure the ball as he struggles to reach the Argonauts’ end zone and seal the deal on the Stampeders’ eighth Grey Cup, losing control on contract from Argo safety Jermaine Gabriel, then DB Cassius Vaughn scooping up the miscue and chugging 109 yards to the other end zone.
After a two-point convert the score was tied. Stunned by the seismic shift, the Stamps never could quite regain equilibrium.
It’s oft said what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Jorden understands. His availability in dealing with a gutting situation only underscored that.
“It’s probably the first time being in that situation and he handled it the right way,’’ said quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell Monday. “I told him: ‘You don’t need to take the blame for that.’ Yeah, own up to what you did. You fumbled the ball. But it’s not all on you, even if it feels that way.
“I told him last season I felt terrible about the picks at the beginning of the (Grey Cup) game but at the end we still had a chance to win. That’s what matters.
“We had a chance to win or tie at the end this year, too.
“He’s not the reason we lost. I could’ve made that tackle on the fumble, Quay coulda got there. We could not have let them get a two-point conversion.
“Plenty of things could’ve happened.
“Proud of the way he owned up to it. But he doesn’t need to be taking the blame for it.”
What’s important is that Jorden not fall into the trap of allowing one play to define him.
“I definitely think about that,’’ he acknowledged. “That was one of the first things in my head when the game ended.
“But it is the job I signed up for and that, right there, that’s pro football. It’s going to be a play I’m going to be known for. Right now I’m willing to accept it and willing to grow from it.
“I understand that but I also understand that’s not the player I am. I don’t have any doubts about myself as an athlete, being a receiver, being able to go out and make plays and put my team in a position to win.”
At 28 and under contract, he wants nothing more than to be part of another Grey Cup push. And another. And …
“This team gave me an opportunity when no one else did,’’ he said Tuesday. “I mean, I was playing Arena football when these guys called me up here.
“When I was hurt, they waited for me.
“They showed a lot of support for me, even in the Grey Cup game. After the fumble, we went back on a drive, they called a pass to me and I dropped it.
“The fact that (Dave Dickenson) called the exact same play again, to give me another chance” – a superb 37-yard, over-the-shoulder snare – “just shows the type of trust that they have in me as a player.
“I want to be part of a Calgary championship.
“I want to pay them back for everything they did for me, by giving me a job and somewhere to call home six months out of the year.”
Redemption, atonement, is out there for those brave enough and professional enough.
Look no further than one Steve Smith as irrefutable proof.
Only a year following the tears and self-recrimination, sitting alone in the dressing room feeling responsible for all the ills of the world, the first teammate Oilers captain Wayne Gretzky handed the Stanley Cup off to after vanquishing the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7 was …
You guessed it.