VANCOUVER - All Angus Reid ever wanted from football was to be just like his older brothers. When Angus was 10, Mark granted him his wish.
“I was in my first year at Simon Fraser and, as a rookie initiation, the veterans shaved my head,” Mark Reid explained Monday. “When I went home, I figured: If I got my head shaved, then someone else is getting their head shaved. So I shaved Angus’ head. I guess that was his rookie initiation.”
But Mark gave Angus more than a bad haircut.
“I still say my two older brothers, Mark and Bruce, were the two best football players I ever knew,” Angus said. “They’re a measuring stick that, in my mind, I’ll never live up to. My brother Mark, you’ve got to remember, he came to the Lions at five-foot-10. If Mark was my size, his career would have been longer than mine.”
Mark Reid’s entire Canadian Football League career was eight games with the B.C. Lions in 1990. Angus Reid has played 199 games, all but three of them in B.C., a 25-minute drive from where the six Reid children grew up in the Seafair area of Richmond.
Angus followed his brother to university, then the CFL and, in 2001, the Lions. Angus asked for the No. 64 that Mark had worn 11 years earlier. He still has that number.
Angus’ 200th regular-season game is Saturday against the Saskatchewan Roughriders at BC Place Stadium.
At age 36, too-small, too-short, too-slow Angus Reid, who was told by Lions’ general manager Wally Buono 2½ years ago that he was being phased out, has finally become indispensable.
The centre was given a forced rest last Friday and the Lions surrendered eight sacks — they’d allowed only 19 in the previous 16 games — and were hammered 41-21 by the Calgary Stampeders.
“I had one play,” Reid clarified. “I went in as a tight end on a quarterback sneak. We had a sneak called, and there weren’t any other scenarios to warrant me executing my real skills (as a receiver). It would have been nice, but as a lineman you stop hoping and wishing for those things a long time ago because it’s not fun being disappointed.”
Reid probably has better hands than we realize because his first sporting love was basketball.
“He wanted to be Michael Jordan,” Mark revealed. “He thought he was a basketball player. He didn’t start playing football until he was in Grade 11 at Vancouver College.”
Reid, who is six feet and 305 pounds, was the fourth player chosen in the 2001 CFL draft. He didn’t survive his first training camp with the Toronto Argonauts. He was cut, picked up by the Montreal Alouettes, mostly for their practice roster, then traded to the Lions near the end of his rookie season.
“I figured: OK, I’m terrible,” Reid recalled. “I was pretty much a journeyman at the end of my first year. I thought I better go look in the want-ads for another career because it looks like I’m not going to be a football player.”
But Reid had the good fortune to apprentice for a season behind centre Jamie Taras, then became the starter when his mentor retired in 2002. Reid played 142 straight games before breaking his foot on Oct. 24, 2009.
The following June, he arrived at training camp in Kamloops to learn that Buono had given his position to Dean Valli. Reid would have to earn a roster spot as a backup.
“When Wally talked to me before camp in 2010, it was basically: ‘This will be your last year but we want to keep you around to ease the transition,’ ” Reid said. “That training camp made me realize this could be over real soon. It was a reminder to take advantage of every opportunity. From that point on, my play really has gone up.
“Physically, I’m doing everything I can to take care of myself. And mentally, I’m at a point in my career where I have so much confidence because of the years I’ve banked. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I’m playing the best football of my career.”
Last season, when he was only 35, Reid became a CFL all-star for the first time.
As a defence, Buono said Monday that Reid was coming off his career-threatening foot injury in 2010 and probably wouldn’t have been able to be the opening-day starter. Buono soon gave Reid the chance to reclaim his spot at centre.
“I’m not sure if the rest didn’t help his body, didn’t help his mind,” Buono said. “I think sometimes there’s even a rejuvenation of spirit. I don’t know if physically, Angus got any better. But I think he got smarter. I think he got more appreciative. That, plus his knowledge and leadership – he does have a charisma about him that helps to bring everybody together.”
Bruce Reid spent the 1992 season on Buono’s practice roster in Calgary before taking his football career to Europe. He made enough connections to become an importer specializing in beer. Mark Reid is a partner in a group that operates six Ceili’s Irish Pubs in B.C. and Alberta.
He has fond memories of his brief time as the Lions’ long snapper, which Angus vividly recalls. Doug Flutie was the quarterback.
“Seeing Mark play for the Lions put the idea in my head that this was what I wanted to do,” Angus said. “It’s kind of amazing sometimes when I stop and think that I actually made it and I’m still doing it after all these years.
“I’m still one of the smallest linemen in the league. No one would look at me and say: ‘He’s our top pick, he’s going to be the guy, that’s who we want.’ I pretty much had to fight for it and prove myself the whole time. You might not be exactly what someone’s looking for. You might not be big enough, tall enough, fast enough. But if you really want it, you can make it. And that’s what I’m proud of. I earned it.”
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