Emotional Couture has father in his heart … kicker credits Mexican food and the Bible for bonding … a hole in the Ticats defence … no guest appearance for “Knuckles”

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HAMILTON – There might not be a more emotional player on the field, Sunday, than Blue Bombers centre Michael Couture.

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Couture has two reasons to be overcome by feelings he’s never experienced before when the Bombers run out of the tunnel for the 108th Grey Cup game.

For starters, it’ll be the 27-year-old’s first taste of the CFL’s ultimate game – Couture tore up his ankle in the last game of the 2019 regular season and missed the entire playoff run.

“That fire never went out,” the product of Burnaby, B.C., said, Friday. “Especially after we win in ’19 and then we go through what was 2020. It gave me a good opportunity to rehab really well, and it means everything to be here.”

A minute later, Couture was asked about the bracelet he was wearing, and that’s when things got difficult.

Couture lost his father to cancer last year, a devastating blow he didn’t want to talk about with reporters at the time.

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On Friday, he held up his right arm to show the piece of jewelry that he wears in his dad’s memory, one of two bracelets from his father.

“I have it on most days,” Couture said. “I wouldn’t be here, playing football at this level, if it wasn’t for my dad. And for both my parents, really.”

Couture was at the ’19 championship game in Calgary, and so was his dad.

Even though he didn’t play, that day produced an indelible moment.

It came after the game, in the locker-room.

Couture has a video of head coach Mike O’Shea addressing the team, and it shows his dad next to the coach, grinning ear-to-ear and soaking it all up.

“That’s ingrained,” Couture said.

On Sunday, his mother, his girlfriend and some other family members will be in the stands.

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His dad will be in his heart.

“He’s here,” Couture said. “He’s with me for sure.”

SOAKING IT IN

Kicker Sergio Castillo, with the Bombers barely a month, will play just his fifth game since signing as the fourth player to try field goals this season.

Last week was Castillo’s first playoff game and this will be his first Grey Cup.

“This is what I was hoping for,” Castillo said. “I’m trying to soak everything in. It’s never going to happen, a first time again. Being able to live in the moment, in the present, has been a gift for me lately.”

If and when Castillo feels the nerves, he’ll pull out a short list of inspirational quotes and Bible verses he keeps on his hip.

“So anytime I feel an ounce of doubt, sometimes it can be one time in the quarter, or it can be 10 times, I pull that list out,” he said. “As soon as I feel something, I pull it out.”

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And the result?

“A calm. He who says he can and he who says he can’t are both usually right. The mind feeds the body.”

Speaking of feeding, Castillo says he’s tried to speed up the bonding process with his teammates by sharing a little of his culture.

“People will never deny food,” he said. “Especially Mexican food. I’ll make tacos, I’ll try to bring my culture to the guys.”

Joining the Bible study group, Castillo says, has also brought him closer to teammates.

“People say we’re playing for our brothers, and it’s always cliché,” he said. “But this is the first time in my professional career that there’s 16 or 17 guys in Bible study. The last time I experienced that was in college, and we won a lot of games. I can see why they’re winning here.”

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RATIO-CHANGER

Hamilton’s league-leading run defence was dealt a big blow with the news interior lineman Ted Laurent is likely to miss the game after coming down with appendicitis.

A 10-year vet, and a Canadian, Laurent led a run defence that gave up just 79.6 yards per game.

Everybody knows how much the Winnipeg offence relies on the ground game, the most recent example the West Final, when the Bombers ran 34 times to just 21 passes.
Andrew Harris carried the ball on 23 of those plays, producing 136 yards.

The Tiger-Cats would replace Laurent with American Lee Autry II, meaning they’d have to pull an American starter out of the lineup elsewhere to stay adherent to the ratio.

That could happen in the secondary or at running back, where Don Jackson may have to sit out in favour of Sean Thomas-Erlington.

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THANKS, BUT NO THANKS

By now you’ve probably heard the radio home of the Bombers, 680-CJOB, will be airing the game, carrying the TSN radio feed.

What you may not have heard is retiring play-by-play man Bob Irving was offered a chance to call a couple of minutes of the game at the end of the first half.

“Knuckles” politely declined and will watch the game from his hotel, while preparing his post-game show.

THE LAST WORD

“A lot of people say to us, ‘You guys haven’t faced adversity.’ Well we just came off a year where we didn’t play football. That’s enough adversity for everybody.” – Bombers receiver Rasheed Bailey

pfriesen@postmedia.com

Twitter: @friesensunmedia

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