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September 7, 2018

NEXT MAN UP

Imagine, as a comparable, being pencilled into the batting order to replace Reggie Jackson at clean-up during his A’s or Bronx Bombers years.

A daunting ask, you say?

Well, that’s where Reggie Begelton now finds himself, in the spot so recently, and so spectacularly, occupied by the Stampeders’ new home-run king, Kamar Jorden.

Which means a new Reggie has the chance to be a Mr. October. And a Mr. September. And a Mr. November.

“Truthfully, without K.J., a lot of people are talking about who’s going to ‘step up’ and all that,’’ says Calgary receiving coach Pete Costanza.

“And I understand it’s the media’s job to create stories. Just as it’s the player’s job to shut out all the white noise and go about his business.

“Honestly, Reggie Begelton’s a guy, just like Markeith Ambles, who we believe has the talent to be a starter.

“I talked to the guys this week and, yes, K.J.’s having a phenomenal year but I don’t want them to think that they have to ‘step up.’

“Just play.

“If we didn’t think you could start for us, you wouldn’t be here. So don’t try to do too much, a.k.a. ‘step up.’ Relax. Be yourself.

“Trust in that and everything will be fine.”

The sight of Jorden limping to the sidelines on Labour Day Monday, jersey pulled over his head in despair, left the Stampeders and their faithful feeling utterly sick.

In any serious half-way MOP conversation, Jorden had to be front-and-centre, pulling in 55 passes good for 944 yards and six TDS. On Aug. 26, he left the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defence in literal tatters, establishing a single-game franchise record of 249 yards.

The horizon was a brilliant bright blue.

And then, Monday, he went to make a block against the Edmonton Eskimos and …

Jorden underwent surgery for a torn ACL on Thursday. Gone for the season.

So second-year man Begelton slides into the hotseat slot spot, oozing ability and teeming with motivation.

“You go into this game every day knowing injuries are a risk,’’ Begelton is saying, as the Stamps concluded a brief walk-through before truckin’ due north for the back end of the annual Labour Day doubleheader. “Some worse than others. Here, you build a bond. You have a family that supports you, knowing that should something happen, the man behind you will pick up the slack, fill the void.

“Everybody feels sick about K.J. I didn’t want to get this job this way. But our receiving corps is so deep that honestly next week I still don’t know if I’ll have this job. So you have to come in with the mindset to play your best and help the team win.

“I’ve been doing this all my life. I’ve just gotta go out and ball. Be comfortable, like it’s a walk in the park. It should be fun. That’s the point of this sport.”

He couldn’t get started on a more luminous stage. Commonwealth Stadium. Labour Day rematch. All the bells and whistles.

“This,’’ he agrees, with a grin, “is meat-and-potatoes time. Every game counts but this is where we really get down to the nitty gritty.

“These are the games you want to play in.”

On a ridiculously-deep catching brigade that includes Jorden, DaVaris Daniels, Lemar Durant, Juwan Brescacin, Marken Michel, Richard Sindani and the convalescing Eric Rogers, getting a foothold has been difficult.

“It’s more of a mental battle,’’ reckons Begelton of the wait time. “You can allow the situation to be difficult but you can also make it a positive. We’re in a great organization. We have a great receiving corps. We’re such a family, nobody’s selfish. At the end of the day, we don’t control what happens.

“Eventually, you’re going to be called upon, so always be perfecting your craft.

“So when you do get your opportunity, then it’s time for you to go out and perform.”

That time, under the worse possible circumstances, has arrived. But no man gets to choose how an opportunity arrives.

“I was so upset after the game the other day,’’ confesses Costanza. “I mean, really upset. The way K.J. finished last year, the work he’s put in and how he’s played this season has been … awesome. I’m extremely proud of him. We all are.

“So I was really down that night.

“But I woke up Tuesday morning and thought: ‘This is the deepest receiving corps we’ve ever had. Reggie Begelton’s a heckuva receiver. We’ll be fine.’

“He’s had a good week of practice, he’s ready to go and I’m really not losing any sleep over it anymore.”