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October 30, 2019

BEGELTON HAS COME A LONG WAY

They are, as the weeks fly by like countryside out the windows of a bullet train, becoming ever more simpatico.

“I’m not much of a vocal guy,’’ Reggie Begelton is confessing, post closed-door practice Wednesday at McMahon Stadium. “Honestly, Bo (Levi Mitchell) can see it in my eyes. When he needs a play, he looks at me and I look at him back.

“We just have that connection. Like: ‘OK, I need you to get this one.’

“We don’t have to say much. Actions speak louder than words anyway.”

So the old ‘eyes-met-across-a-crowded-room’ cliché fits in this case. Literally.

Only, however, if that room is spacious enough to hold 30,000 onlookers, is rimmed by a bank of high-powered floodlights and what happens there spills out live on hi-def plasma TV screens from coast-to-coast once a weekend.

In honouring a true breakout campaign at slotback, Begelton has been named Calgary Stampeders’ 2019 nominee for Most Outstanding Player. Among his competition, Saskatchewan QB Cody Fajardo, Ti-Cats’ quicksilver weapon-of-mass-destruction Brandon Banks and Vernon Adams, Jr., the architect of the Alouettes’ renaissance in Montreal.

Heady company.

The highs of the moment are a far cry from the disappointment of a year ago, when a broken arm kept Begelton out of the Grey Cup game up north in Edmonton.

“Yes, it is a long way,’’ he acknowledges. “I’m blessed with the opportunity to get nominated.

“Without Bo, I wouldn’t be here. Same with Nick Arbuckle. They’re the ones getting me the ball. I’m just doing my job.

“There was a sense of nervousness there from the beginning of the season (after the injury). I went into the off-season really early to get back to at least where I was. I made a goal for myself to at least try to get 1,500 yards, 10 touchdowns. It’s something I’d never done before. I’d never been over a thousand yards as a receiver at any level and that was one of my biggest goals.

“Well, almost there.”

Yes, in Saturday’s regular-season curtain-dropper at B.C. Place, Begelton sits only four snares to shy of 100 and requires 116 yards to hit that 1,500.

He’s already reached the 10 TD mark, of course, so in that department he’s playing with house money out on the west coast.

Naturally enough, the reigning league MOP, Begelton’s pitch-’n-catch partner, applauds Wednesday’s nomination.

“Very very, very deserving,’’ Mitchell reckons. “He’s done an amazing job. The thing that’s impressed me most about Reggie is his progression throughout the entire year.

“Wasn’t like he was hot at the start, then fell off, then got hot again. No ups and downs, peaks and valleys. Every single week he’s improving.

“His intelligence blocking has improved, and his YAC – to me, that’s where he’s taken the biggest steps, the timing of his routes is allowing him to get big YAC.

“He’s a guy who score three, four touchdowns in a game and just take it over.”

And, really, he’s just getting started.

“Reggie’s really starting to get a veteran feel for the game,’’ is how receivers coach Pete Constanza describes Begelton’s blossoming. “He’s more comfortable with the speed of things around him now, his blocking’s better, he’s more assignment-sound in the run game.

“And then I really think the chemistry he built with Bo, as well as Nick earlier in the season, has helped out. A lot. They developed that trust factor where they can read each other’s body language to get open, to buy time, to make plays.”

Over his much-accomplished, lavishly-decorated tenure as the QB-of-record here, Mitchell, of course, has developed that kinetic simpatico relationship with a choice few receivers, Marquay McDaniel, Eric Rogers, DaVaris Daniels and Kamar Jorden chief among them.

Begelton, therefore, has joined an elite group.

“I think we’ve created something and it’s only going to get better,’’ enthuses No. 19. “You’ve got him, Eric, K.J. coming back on the field, Hergy (Mayala) … so much receiving talent.

“That’s a lot of animals there that can eat defences alive.”

Think of the progression. From being released at his first Stamps’ camp to 22 catches that rookie year after rejoining the Red and White, to 25 snares before the cruel September injury last season to near the top of the league receiving charts this go-around.

And as of today, a nod as a MOP candidate.

“Honestly,’’ admits Begelton, “I’m awestruck for words. It’s been a long ride. I finally got the opportunity and I took advantage of it.”

Not that ‘satisfaction’ vernacular.

“Honestly, I do go back home (Beaumont, Tx.), I sit in my corner and I smile. I do smile.

“But it’s so easy to sit down, lay on the couch and see what you’ve done. We’re still in-season. So that’s one of those things, where you have to get out of your comfort zone.

“I came here for a championship. So individual stats are good, but I’m here for that Grey Cup.”