Hamilton Tiger-Cat standout Brandon Boudreaux is looking to follow in some big footsteps – straight to opposing quarterbacks.
In addition to leading the Ticats in sacks with three, Boudreaux tops all rookies in the category and sits fourth overall in the league.
Like Osi Umenyiora and DeMarcus Ware, who have long terrorized pivots years south of the border, Boudreaux is a product of two well-known Alabama football schools, Auburn high school and Troy University.
In fact, Ware has been a mentor of sorts to the 23-year-old CFL rookie, who already has three big sacks in his first five games.
“Back in high school I watched Troy games, I loved the system they ran, as far as for pass rushers," Boudreaux said. "I talked to DeMarcus about the football program at Troy and that was definitely a determining factor in me going there."
During Boudreaux's time as a Troy Trojan, Ware would come back to the university frequently to teach pass rush moves and techniques. As the young defensive end was honing his skills on the field, he was pushing big weight around in the gym - enough poundage to earn himself a spot on ESPN's 2011 list of the 10 strongest players in college football.
"Each year every strength coach submits who they feel is their top performer in the weight room, and then ESPN breaks it down,” Boudreaux explained.
Listed at 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, Boudreaux put up some gaudy testing numbers: 39 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press at his pro day, 38-inch vertical jump, 10-foot-5 broad jump, a 4.60 40-yard time and he could also squat 610 pounds - to check in at number three on ESPN's list.
"All the credit goes to my Troy strength coach, Richard Shaughnessy," he said. "He did a good job of preparing us for games and getting our bodies right. The weight program down there definitely prepared me for that list."
"It was a great honour and a great achievement for Troy University."
Despite Boudreaux's prolific numbers in the gym, his senior season was one to forget thanks to a major injury.
"My last year at Troy, I was supposed to have a good year - a breakout year - but I tore my hamstring in practice. I came back and wasn’t the same," he said.
The ill-timed setback caused several teams to shy away from Boudreaux, he went undrafted and didn't land a free agent deal post-draft. Then, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats came calling.
Angelo Wright, Boudreaux's agent, told his client the Ticats were interested and wanted him to workout at one of the team's US free agent camps.
“I drove to Hamilton's workout at LSU (Louisiana State University), did really well and was pleased with what I saw out of the coaching staff there, Joe Womack and Danny McManus. I knew right away that I wanted to be a Hamilton Tiger-Cat after that workout," Boudreaux said.
Turns out, Womack and McManus felt the same way and signed Boudreaux to a free agent pact with the team on May 29, a day before rookies reported to Ticats training camp.
“When I first got to camp, I wasn’t sure if I could actually last here because the speed is so much different. The terminology, demand as a football player and what my coach wanted from me, was more than I thought I could handle," Boudreaux said.
"I told myself if I want to be here I’m going to have to lock in and focus."
All Boudreaux did was put his hard hat on and go to work, impressing the coaching staff and veterans players alike, most notably Greg Peach.
"During camp we talked a lot and our personalities kind of matched up," Boudreaux said.
"I had a spot to live already set up, but I had a whole basement that was going to be unused," Peach explained. "I was going to live there by myself at first, but Brandon needed a place."
"He’s a veteran; he didn’t have to live with a rookie. He could have lived with another veteran. It’s not often you get a rookie and a veteran moving in together," Boudreaux said.