Johnson: Hulking Huntley licking his chops as he draws in against Calvillo’s Alouettes
Defensive lineman enjoyed lots of success against Montreal when he was a member of the Toronto Argonauts
He’s kept the cameo-keepsake photo all these years.
“Got it on my iPad,” says Kevin Huntley, in that basso voice of his, staring straight down a couple of storeys. “Wanna see it?”
The image might be rated PG-13: Anthony Calvillo, trapped underneath a one-man mass of humanity, squished like an unfortunate bug on the grill of a semi, arms and legs all akimbo, as if he were some debased then discarded marionette.
Warning: Graphic violence!
“My very first game, against Montreal, in Montreal,” says Huntley, warming to the recollection. “I wanna say it was their first or second pass. I beat . . . I can’t remember who the guard was at the time . . . and I destroyed Calvillo.
“He tried to turn his back. You know A.C., he’s so famous for spinnin’ away. But I got there so fast all he could was half-turn. I just killed him.
“Dragged him through the dirt.”
If ever the Calgary Stampeders had to plug in someone on their defensive line against this particular opponent, Kevin Huntley would seem to be the hand-picked choice. Because after four seasons in the Big Smoke, outfitted in Argonaut double blue, no one has to spend any extra time raising his ire, his enmity, towards Friday’s opposition, the Montreal Alouettes.
“I’ve never,” admits Huntley, “been a fan of Montreal. Even my first year up here, for some reason, even before I heard a word about Montreal being Toronto’s big rival, the bullies on the block, all the history and stuff, I just didn’t like ’em. Instinctively.
“And, you know, I’d never even been up here. They just seemed arrogant, somehow. I didn’t like their demeanour. It was like they didn’t have a mutual respect, and no matter what, I always have respect for the guy across from me. He’s got a job to do, too.
“Not them. They always kind of looked through you, like they didn’t acknowledge you had the potential to kick their butt. And that’s the problem.
“I’ve don’t think I’ve ever had a bad game against Montreal. I’m betting on that trend continuing.”
An abdominal muscle tear suffered by Micah Johnson last Friday in Regina opened a hole in the D-line and Huntley, despite the size of him, has romped right through it.
Understand, this is an intimidating figure. Listed — conservatively — at 6-foot-8 and 305 pounds. Perhaps it’s just the eyes playing tricks, some manner of optical illusion, but he seems a head higher than any of the other sizable humans strolling off the McMahon Stadium turf following practice Wednesday.
“I’m a big guy, but this guy . . .” Defensive line coach DeVone Claybrooks rolls his eyes in wonder. “The other coaches said they started to realize just how big when they saw me tilting my head up just to look to him.
“I played with a 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9 D-tackle in Dallas once. He didn’t make it, got released. But big? Man! And Kevin, in terms of height, he’s right there.”
Then, squinting at the Bilbo Baggins-sized scribbler in front of him, Claybrooks can’t resist a dig.
“Of course he looks huge to you. You, you’re an Oompa-Loompa. When you can’t ride any of the rides at Disneyland and need a booster seat to drive your car . . .” A broad smile crosses his face.
“But you’re right. That” — with a quick nod over in Huntley’s direction — “that is one large man.”
Large, and motivated.
“I’ve never been a guy to sit around and not do anything,“ says Huntley, “but I also understand the business aspect of the game. You have to learn plays, you have to get adjusted. Learn the playbook as fast as you can. That’s what I’ve been doing.
“When you’re in a profession where you’re in the spotlight, you have to perform. Every year they have a draft because they’re looking for the next ‘best thing’, potentially looking to replace you. No matter who you are. Even if you’ve done great things in this league.
“I’m just looking at this as another time, another place, to prove myself. To go out and whup some more butts.”
What the Stampeders are inserting into their defensive front is a known commodity. No surprises here. During his four seasons as an Argo, Huntley rang up 123 tackles and 26 quarterback sacks.
“We brought him in because we knew what he could do, how he can perform,” says Claybrooks. “When you’ve got a vet who’s played 10 years of pro ball, we’ve gotta make some adjustments to his game to fit what we do. Mostly, though, football’s football and he’s pretty good at it.”
Finally, following nearly three weeks of biding his time on the Stampeders’ practice roster, Kevin Huntley is being let off the leash. The locale, the opponent, the primary target are all very familiar to him.
Hand-picked, you might even say.
And who can tell, another cameo-keepsake photo for the iPad might even be in the offing.
“I just know that in life, everything good is worth waiting for,” rumbles the big man. “Like they say in church, ‘He might not come whenever you want Him to, but He’ll be there right on time.’
“You just gotta have that mindset that no matter how things look, no matter how things seem or are portrayed to you, keep working hard, stay positive, and when your time comes you’ll be ready to rock ‘n roll.
“I’m ready to rock and roll.”
George Johnson is the Herald’s sports columnist. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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