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June 7, 2019

AMBLES LOCKED IN

Official word hit Markeith Ambles harder, deflated him more incisively, than any bent-on-annihilation DB ever had, ever will, ever could.

“That,” concedes the second-year receiver, of numbing news prior to last Nov. 25, “was very difficult.

“I was mad.

“But stuff like that happens in this game. I believe in coach Dickie, and he thought that was the best move for the team. And we won.

“Winning is more important than who played or who didn’t; more important than anyone’s personal feelings.

“I just wanted to have a great off-season, get back to 100 percent healthy, come in and prove myself all over again.

“So I’m good.”

Yes, he is.

He more than proved as much late last fall, having been conscripted off the practice roster to spectacular affect after injuries began decimating the Stampeders’ vaunted receiving corps in September.

Six appearances to close out the regular season for the pinch-hitting Ambles, resulting in 28 catches, good for 306 yards and four TDs.

He followed that up with three grabs for 41 yards during the West Final dismissal of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at McMahon.

But then, as fate would have it, with the walking wounded slowly returning to active duty and choices aplenty to fill out the game-day roster, Ambles found himself as a spectator, odd-man out on Grey Cup Sunday at Commonwealth Stadium.

It’s a difficult reality for anyone to wrap their head around, particularly given their impact during the run-up to the big game.

“Markeith really was an unsung hero, for the way he came in, next-man-up, and didn’t miss a beat,” says receivers’ coach Pete Costanza. “And then for the way he plugged in holes positionally where and when we needed him to.

“When I talked to him during the off-season, we spoke briefly about the Grey Cup and he said: ‘Hey, coach, that’s over.’ You could tell, he was locked in before he even got here. He was excited that we were going to put him out there at the W and – fingers crossed – leave him there.

“I mean, when he got his chance last year, position-wise, he was all over the map. We started him at W, then moved him to X, then to R. And then we moved him again.

“We put him in a tough spot, having him learn so many roles, try so many new positions, but that was out of necessity.

“All those injuries we had … never seen anything like it before and never hope to again.”

Moving around so much in such a short period last season, Ambles must’ve felt the football equivalent of the proverbial career army man: Just get the suitcase and toiletries unpacked, then orders to set off again, from place to place to place. In a dizzyingly-short time span.

Not that you’d ever hear a peep of complaint. He had, after all, come out of the shadows to finally reach the field when the stadium lights had shone to life.

“Yeah,” he acknowledges, “I moved around a bit.

“It is very comforting, coming into this camp and knowing I’m just focusing on one position now.”

DaVaris Daniels, Marken Michel and Chris Matthews have all re-located over the winter but old comrades-in-arms Eric Rogers, Juwan Brescacin, Reggie Begelton, et al – along with a fresh crop of talented ball-securers – are on hand to provide competition for weekend-to-weekend starting spots.

“The way Markeith has approached this, his mindset, really set him up to have a good camp,” says Costanza. “And he’s done a nice job. Really has. He’s been in one spot since Day One. He’s figuring out the details, so now he can just get out there, play fast and make plays for us.”

One final pre-season test remains, at B.C. on Friday, before the Stamps begin defence of their title.

And Ambles is aiming to play a big part.

“I’ve always tried to look at the playbook as a whole because anybody can be hurt at any time and you’ve got to be ready to step in and help out where you’re needed,”he says. “I’m always ready to do that.

“But hopefully the football gods are on our side this year and we don’t have any – or at least many – injuries.

“They owe us.”

And come late November, he can’t help but believe those same gridiron deities owe him, too.

“I’m looking forward to getting back there,” he says of the 2019 Grey Cup, out there off in the distance, “winning again and being a part of it. Especially having the game here, in our stadium.

“I use that as fuel. Definitely.”