MISSISSAUGA -- There are some things in football, no matter what position you play, that you just can’t control.
That’s a notion that Argos rookie pass-catcher Dontrelle Inman has come to embrace during his glowing start this season, as the 23-year-old looks to make his new role as a starting receiver a permanent one.
His mentality: just win the battles and come down with the ball on every play.
“I do take a lot of pride in getting the ball, no matter where, if it’s a short route, deep route – when the ball’s in the air I want to make it feel like that’s my ball, nobody else’s but mine,” says Inman.
|Inman Making his Case|
In two games this season, Inman has hauled in four passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns
» WATCH: Inman's 56-yard TD
It’s that kind of approach that turned heads through the first two weeks of the regular season, after the South Carolina native caught three passes for 107 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a thrilling 39-36 Argos win in their home-opener on Saturday.
Inman showed his versatility on both touchdown plays, first breaking open and then stretching out to grab a long Ricky Ray pass in the first half, before in the second half posting up and making an acrobatic catch over two defenders for touchdown number two.
As the off-season free agent signing continues to build chemistry with quarterback Ricky Ray, people can’t help but ask: just how good can this guy be?
As players like Maurice Mann near a return to the lineup, Inman knows there’s only so much he can control.
“I just have to be consistent, continue to do what I do,” says Inman. “If I continue to catch the ball and continue to be reliable, it’ll be up to the coaches. It’s not up to me, I can only control what I can control, and that’ll be my play on the field.”
So far, the things he can control have gone very well for him.
Inman first joined the team in February after a short stint with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, who he signed with as an undrafted free agent right after the league’s work stoppage. He was cut loose after coming close to earning a roster spot, eventually leading him to the Argos.
“I did the waiting game and I was tired, I said I needed to be on some team somewhere,” says Inman. “I actually signed with an AFL team in Wisconsin, and then two weeks later I got the call from Toronto asking me to come and play.”
As he adjusted to life in a new country, with most of his family left south of the border, he began to thrive on the field. He fit into the offence quickly, finding immediate chemistry with Ray, giving him an early edge over the rest of the competition.
“Every opportunity that Ricky gave me, I tried to make the best of it,” says Inman. “The thing is between the quarterback and the receiver, you have to gain the quarterback’s confidence, and that’s what I’ve been told my whole career.”
He recalls how when he first arrived in camp, he didn’t know who Ray was. But he recognized right away just how special number 15 is, and now agrees that having a legend at the position made a big difference in having success early on.
“Just looking back at the first practice, how he threw the ball, how he presented himself, how he carried the offence. I knew that he was a great quarterback just from his mannerisms,” says Inman. “It makes a big difference – it’s like a wide receiver’s dream to have a quarterback who can get you the ball at any given time.”
Head Coach Scott Milanovich says that while there are plenty of strong points to Inman’s game, it was the chemistry that was established between him and Ray that wound up giving him a leg up on the competition.
“With a quarterback, you have to have a feel for somebody and feel like you read their body language, and when you have that, you feel like you can throw it up and trust them to go make the play,” says Milanovich. “That’s something you just don’t have with every guy, so I think there’s some level of comfort there that’s continuing to develop. Ricky’s not afraid to throw it up to him.”
Inman grew up in South Carolina with his three sisters and three brothers, all of whom were athletic, just like him. After breaking records in his senior season during high school, he received offers from 16 different colleges, including Auburn University.
An injury in the sixth game of the season was quick to put a damper on his success though, with all but one school – the University of Virginia – withdrawing their scholarships. That led him to the Virginia Cavaliers, where he was once again plagued by injuries.
“A lot of good memories, a lot of good and a lot of bad,” says Inman as he reflects on his four years with the Cavaliers.
In his senior year he broke out in a big way, leading his team with 815 receiving yards in 11 starts. That led him to an NFL tryout with the Jaguars and eventually, to the Argos, where he’s already shown the same ability to get back on his feet as he did in college.
A perfect example came during Saturday’s Week 2 matchup with the Stamps, when a deflection off the outstretched arms of Inman led to a 60-yard interception return for Calgary’s Eric Fraser. He got over it quickly with his 56-yard catch and run down the sideline to put his team back out in front.
He also survived fierce competition at the position in training camp, beating out a number of receivers with years of pro experience. But he always managed to keep a positive attitude, and against the odds, just kept making plays.
“It was always an uphill battle because when you’re first getting here there are 19 receivers, so I tell myself I have to take advantage of it no matter what happens,” says Inman. “As long as I give it my all, I’m satisfied, and that’s what I’ve been doing, giving it my all every day.”
A lot of the credit, he says, should go to his grandmother, Jeanette, who never stops reminding him what it takes to be successful.
“I was raised by my grandmother so she still drives me today, everything I do out here, I always remind myself – this one is for you,” says Inman. “She really pushes me and she really drives me to be the best. One thing she said was ‘as long as you put your best foot forward, no matter what anybody says, you’ll be great’.”
As Toronto’s Week 3 battle with the Ticats looms, Inman says he’s now pretty well settled in with his new team.
“It’s all embedded now – we know the system, we know the way we practice, we know the environment around here, we know what it takes to win, we know what will happen if we lose and we know what we did to lose, so everything’s been embedded into us now,” says Inman.
“Overall I want to be to the point where I’m considered one of the top receivers in this league,” says Inman. “I want to get to the point where if you watch film, you know that guy’s reliable, that he’s a good player. That’s my goal, because once that happens, who knows what can happen from there.”
He also says he’s taken a shine to his new country, and wouldn’t mind staying for a long time.
“I’ve enjoyed it so far. My family asks how it is up here, and I say ‘it’s lovely, I could stay up here,” he says. “If it wasn’t too cold.”
“Every Canadian is friendly – you don’t find that in the States. I enjoy that because I’m a friendly person myself, I love to see people smile so I enjoy that.”