April 11, 2018

Mrabure Sold on Calgary

Down the road a ways, whenever Juwan Brescacin decides he’s had enough of catching footballs for a living, a ready-made second career in sales awaits.

Tourism Calgary might want to get well ahead of the curve and start making preliminary inquiries.

“Good friend of mine’’ says Ese Mrabure of Brescacin, the third-year Calgary Stampeders’ slotback. “We trained together all off-season last year, and as soon as the past season ended he was the first guy to reach out, to send me a message, like: ‘Hey, man. Check out Calgary. Come on board. We win. Think about it.’

“Oh yeah, he sold it. He planted the seed.

“Over the time period of the last two or three months, it started getting more and more real in my mind.

“I actually caught myself in casual conversation with a friend from (Wilfred) Laurier who lives in Calgary and he asked me: ‘Where do you think you’re going to land?’

“And it just came out, I don’t know why, but I told him: ‘I’ll probably end up in Calgary.’

“Then I paused, thinking: ‘Wait a minute …’”

Tuesday, free-agent day, probably became certainly, “wait a minute” became wait no longer, as the 6-foot-4, 250-pound defensive linesman signed on with the Stampeders.

That initial sales pitch from the Mississauga-born receiver to the North York-born DL was backed up by a chorus of complementary, and complimentary, voices.

“Heading into free agency I got a lot of feedback from guys around the league, and even before, to be honest,’’ said Mrabure. “And any time I’ve talked to someone about Calgary or somebody came from Calgary to either B.C. or the Riders, I heard absolutely nothing but amazing things.

“About the guys who play for the team. The people who take care of the team. The coaches. All-around, across the board, the organization is rich in family-oriented vibes.

“On top of that, it’s a proven winning program.

“Then just looking at the defensive line and the likes of Ja’Gared Davis and Micah Johnson, I felt like my athleticism mixed well with what they already do. It’s a perfect fit.”

A surprise fifth-overall selection out of Laurier in the 2016 draft by B.C., Mrabure spent one season on the west coast and the past two just across the most easterly provincial border as a Saskatchewan Roughrider.

Just 25, there’s a definite ‘has only scraped the surface’ to the acquisition from a Stampeder standpoint.

Through 2017, in 16 games for the Riders, Mrabure made 17 tackles, posted two sacks and had a fumble recovery.

“That first year in B.C. I did a lot of learning and a lot of mental reps, in practice and in games. Just taking in how the CFL works.

“I try to always be learning, try to pay attention to how to operate in different situations, with different clubs. I feel that definitely moulded me into the player I am now.

“I think with this fresh start, it’s definitely time to turn it on. In Year 3 of actually getting playing time, I’m really excited.

“Because this feels right.”

With Winnipeg, Edmonton, a return to B.C. and, briefly, Ottawa also in the free-agent frame, the Stampeders stepped in Tuesday and the karma Mrabure felt months earlier kicked into overdrive.

“The first time I actually heard from them was early into free-agency,’’ he says. “I’d say within the first half-hour. They were the first team to say: ‘We’re interested. Here’s our number. Get back to us.’

“It was kinda like they weren’t going to push me or hassle me, they just threw it out there, what they were thinking, and we countered back.

“A few hours later, my agent called and said Coach Dickenson wanted to talk to me. A really good conversation, and I’d worked with his brother (Craig) in Saskatchewan.

“From that one phone conversation, I felt very comfortable. And my gut feeling told me: All right, this is pretty sure where I’m going to be; this is where I want to be.”

And among the first to congratulate Mrabure on his new lease on football life?

Why, who’ else but Juwan Brescacin, the original salesman?

“As soon as he got the news, he sent me a direct message on Instagram and he’s like: ‘Hey, did we just become best friends?’

“I guess we did.

“So, 100 per cent, I definitely owe him.”