By Miriana Dundek
Seated in his hotel lobby, sporting a black baseball cap with an orange cat’s-paw print and chatting casually with a couple of teammates, this football star might be mistaken for just another of Ottawa’s crazed Grey Cup fans.
But B.C. Lions defensive tackle Cameron Legault is more than a fan of football. The Ottawa native began playing football at the age of 15 with the Nepean Redskins. Despite a relatively small stature for a player in his position (6-3, 269 lbs), Legault has always shown a commitment to the game.
He’s one of the sport’s very driven and aggressive players, according to friend and fellow teammate Angus Reid.
“Cam puts on a helmet and he can really become a warrior type of player on the field. Given any opportunity he will always respond positively. He works hard and he lets his actions speak for him. He’s a professional in all sense of the word,” says Reid.
Last week, Legault was back in the city to play in front of a sold-out crowd at the 92nd Grey Cup.
“When you’re playing in the biggest game of the year in front of family, friends and past teammates, people that watched you play when you were younger, you hope they can look at you see what you’ve made for yourself,” says Legault. “To know that they are out there watching, that’s what drives me to do so well.”
The 30-year-old once practiced on the same turf as the big game in his varsity football years. A graduate of Carleton University, Legault played defensive line for the school’s football team from 1994-1998.
“He always tells us that he was a skinny little D lineman that had to take on all the biggest and best players and that he always got his butt kicked,” says Reid.
Legault managed to excel at his defensive position, capturing several accolades.
He co-captained the last two years for the Ravens before the school’s football program folded in 1998.
“I heard they retired football at the university once he was done because no one would even match his athletic ability ever again,” says Reid, bearing a slight grin.
In 1999, Legault was one of only two Canadians that made the East-West Shrine game roster.
There, he was spotted by Kelly Bates, a current B.C. Lions left guard who attended the premier American all-star game.
“The first time I saw him play football, I didn’t know him. I saw him at the game down in the States because he went with a teammate of mine from Saskatchewan. Cameron lit it up,” says Bates.
Legault was soon drafted by the Calgary Stampeders with the 16th pick in the 1999 Canadian college draft. After being released in July, Legault signed with the Lions in September 2000.
Bates, who has since become good friends with Legault, says one of his first memories of Legault is a small quarrel between them in training camp.
“Because of our positions, we go against each other. He tore at my arm funny and I was in a little bit of pain,” says Bates.
On the bus ride afterwards, Legault came up and apologized.
“It’s football. It happens,” says Bates. “But, right there I said, ‘There’s a man who’s strong in his convictions and morals.’”
Bates says it’s the heart and character Legault shows that make him such an asset to the team.
Legault’s success with B.C. includes a 2000 Grey Cup victory and a nomination as the team’s most outstanding Canadian in 2001.
Although Legault says he’s an overachiever, he adds it helps him stay focused and that preparation is always necessary just to be able to stay in the game.
“I’ve never been the biggest guy, so I have to do a lot of hard work to stay strong enough and fast enough. The reward is all I’ve accomplished by being part of the Grey Cups, being up for a national award and having fun doing it.”