Johnson: Stamps’ McDaniel chases the elusive 1,000-yard mark

 

Slotback needs just 41 more yards to hit the milestone that every receiver wants to reach

 
 
 
 
Calgary Stampeders slotback Marquay McDaniel scores a touchdown as he is chased by Edmonton Eskimos defender Donovan Alexander on Friday in Edmonton.
 

Calgary Stampeders slotback Marquay McDaniel scores a touchdown as he is chased by Edmonton Eskimos defender Donovan Alexander on Friday in Edmonton.

Photograph by: JASON FRANSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS

More on This Story

 

Only a number, yes. But also validation, a professional benchmark.

“That number,” acknowledges Marquay McDaniel, “is what’s everybody’s goal is coming into any season. To be a 1,000-yard receiver. That’s what you want your reputation to be. That’s the way you want to be thought of. That’s what you’re shooting for every year when you come to camp. Those 1,000 yards.

“In this league, where teams throw a lot, it’s pretty easy to get 1,000.” McDaniel stops haltingly, starts back-pedalling faster than Mike Reilly in the face of a full-bore, bring-the-house blitz. “Well, not . . . easy, exactly. But you should. Let’s just say there’s a lot of opportunities to do it.

“And coming so close before . . .”

For those professional pass-catchers among us, 1,000 yards over 18 games is the equivalent of 100 RBI or 30 dingers for a Major League meat-of-the-order hitter, a sub-70 scoring average on the PGA Tour, a point-a-game pace for an NHLer. In their world, 1,000 yards elevates you into a different category, moves you into a more upscale neighbourhood, gets you a better table at the swanky restaurant.

As Week 17 of the 2013 CFL season approaches, the Calgary Stampeders’ all-business slotback goes once more in search of that category, the fancier digs, the better table, finding himself only 41 yards short of reaching that magical 1,000-mark for the first time in five north-of-the-border campaigns.

In 2010, he came tantalizingly, bitterly close while in the employ of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. In the late stages of a final-game 23-21 loss to the B.C. Lions, McDaniel latched onto a screen pass for 10 yards from his current pitch-and-catch playmate Kevin Glenn to surpass the milestone. Until a yellow hanky was spotted, lying limply on the Ivor Wynne carpet, indicating a holding penalty on the Ticats. Play wiped out.

He finished six yards shy. They felt like 600.

“People say ‘Oh, but you were close . . .’ Well, thanks for being nice but to me 994 is not 1,000. It’s 994. Not enough. Because I can be a 1,000-yard receiver. I want to be 1,000-yard receiver. I’m confident enough in my ability. So sorry, 994 doesn’t quite cut it.”

McDaniel’s contribution to the Stampeder juggernaut this season has been well chronicled. There are, it’s universally understood, easier gigs than replacing Nik Lewis. While McDaniel hooked up to a laughing-gas canister couldn’t hope to fill the dead air left by the loquacious Lewis’ absence, he’s more than filled the gaping void between the lines. And Lewis, as people hereabouts know first-hand, is always good for 1,000 yards plus.

In an expanded role in a high-octane offence, Marquay McDaniel, the solid pro, the quiet craftsman, has become Marquee McDaniel.

“With Nik going down, somebody had to step up. Not even as far as trying to do too much, just making plays to get the offence going. Nik’s been that guy for so long. When Nik made a play, he’d get the whole offence fired up. Then somebody else would make a play, then somebody else. It was contagious, and Nik sparked it.

“I’ve tried to be that spark this year.”

From a target of 15 wins that’d be the most in a campaign since 1995 to rush end Charleston Hughes chasing Harold Hallman’s record 19 sacks in a season to Jon Cornish trying to run down the legendary Willie Burden’s 1,896 yards of 38 years ago, the Stamps are a group big on numbers at the moment.

So in grand scheme of things maybe Marquay McDaniel’s quest for 1,000 doesn’t quite carry quite the same shimmer, but it’d be sweet compensation for someone who’s meant the world to what has so far been a remarkable season.

And there’d be something symmetrically perfect about Glenn to McDaniel hooking up on a 1,000-yard breaker sometime during the first quarter of Saturday’s first-place showdown against the Saskatchewan Roughriders at McMahon Stadium. Considering they’ve been a partnership for all five of McDaniel’s CFL seasons.

“Yeah, we’ve been together his whole time here, back in Hamilton and now Calgary,” muses Glenn. “Destiny, I guess. God works in mysterious way. And I think we’ve had a connection, every since we got together. He always thinks of what’s best for team first, not himself.

“He’s Mr. Underrated. Mr. Reliable. Everybody talks about me flying under the radar as a quarterback, well he’s doing the exact same thing as a receiver. I think 1,000 yards would be a big accomplishment for him. If you ask me, he’s already done it, back in Hamilton, but to have it in the quote-unquote stats books would kind of make up for that.

“Whatever happens, though, I don’t think that defines him as a player. He’s just a very good receiver, period. In my opinion, one of the best in the league.”

For McDaniel, the memory of 2010 still rankles, and not only for missing out on the magic number by six yards, either.

“We had Arland Bruce and Dave Stala go over 1,000,” he sighs. “I dropped a lot of balls on Kevin that year. I heard something back then that that would’ve been the first time in Hamilton history they would’ve had three receivers over 1,000 in a year. So, yeah, I definitely feel like I owe Kevin another 1,000.

“Just him getting to 10,000 (career) yards (passing) last week, he’s finally getting the recognition he deserves. So, definitely, the comfort level with Kevin is there. Now we just gotta get him that ring.”

First things first. There’s a West final home playoff date to nail down. Five sacks for Charleston Hughes to eclipse Harold Hallman, 207 rushing yards for Cornish to overtake Willie Burden.

And the formality of 42 more, just two or three more catches, for Mr. Underrated, Mr. Reliable to finally crack the 1,000-yard pass-catching barrier.

Only a number, yes. But also validation, a professional benchmark.

“I’ve been close before,” hedges Marquay McDaniel, trying to be polite while not jinxing the process. “I’m close now. To be right there again and not get it would be . . . let’s say, disappointing. So I’m trying not to think too much about it. We’re winning games, having a ball, and that’s what matters most.

“My plan is just to go out the way I have every week, try to make plays and hope that it happens.”

No one would be more deserving.

George Johnson is the Herald’s sports columnist. E-mail him at gjohnson@calgaryherald.com

Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH

 
 
 
Font:
 
 
 
 
Calgary Stampeders slotback Marquay McDaniel scores a touchdown as he is chased by Edmonton Eskimos defender Donovan Alexander on Friday in Edmonton.
 

Calgary Stampeders slotback Marquay McDaniel scores a touchdown as he is chased by Edmonton Eskimos defender Donovan Alexander on Friday in Edmonton.

Photograph by: JASON FRANSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles and blog posts. We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, and please keep your comments relevant and respectful. If you encounter a comment that is abusive, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report spam or abuse. We are using Facebook commenting. Visit our FAQ page for more information.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Your voice
Is it time for Alfredsson to retire?
 
Yes, it's about time.
No, he could help Wings.
Don't know