Deron Mayo is officially classed as a rookie with the Calgary Stampeders, but with a full regular season under your belt, it’s hard to describe anyone as a rookie.
But Friday morning was different; facing the likelihood that he’ll replace injured middle linebacker Juwan Simpson in the Stamps’ starting lineup in Sunday’s West Division final at BC Place Stadium, Mayo was surprised to see the throng of media types waiting to interview him after Friday’s practice at McMahon Stadium.
“I’ve never had that before,” said a smiling Mayo after the Q-and-A session. “I told Rhys (Dowbiggin, the Stamps’ co-ordinator of media and community relations), ‘Man, I’m not doing interviews today.’ He was like, ‘I don’t think you can do that.’ ”
With that out of the way, Mayo headed in for some final prep work for the not-insignificant task of replacing an all-star linebacker against the high-powered Lions, and doing it, for the first time, in a loser-eliminated contest.
“To be honest, I’ve never played a playoff game, my entire career,” said the 24-year-old Old Dominion product. “I started playing in my junior year of high school and we never made the playoffs; we were always one game short. So this should ne exciting.
“I’m anxious to go out there and play and prove to my teammates that I can do a great job out there. You’re always looking to prove yourself, you’re always looking to get better and at any point you have to be ready to step up and be a starter.”
Simpson, whose right ankle was in a walking cast — it’s been an ongoing problem but it flared up on him in last Sunday’s win over Saskatchewan — isn’t ruling himself out of the lineup on Sunday, but he was described as “doubtful” by Stamps coach and GM John Hufnagel.
Simpson’s advice to Mayo?
“Just play football,” he shrugged. “I mean, that’s what it boils down to.”
That’s what I did when I was in a situation like this some years ago. Just play ball. He’s a good player, he’s played before. He’s a consistent player on special teams on defence; you know what you’re going to get from him, so you can’t ask for much more from a player.”
Mayo, in fact, has been a steady contributor all year, mostly on special teams, but as a situational player on defence as well. He doesn’t have Simpson’s size (at five foot 11, Mayo is four inches shorter than Simpson) but he has better speed.
“Just play the way he’s been playing all year long,” said Hufnagel. “He’s played a lot of football in our different packages, so it’s not like he hasn’t been on the field all year long. He’s played numerous snaps, and he’s looking forward to it. He’s a very fast, athletic young man. He’ll get the job done.”
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