SURREY, B.C. â€” David Foucault’s one and only NFL start came with the responsibility of protecting the blindside of Carolina Panthers star quarterback Cam Newton.
In prime time no less, with first place in the division at stake.
“No pressure, Thursday Night Football,” the B.C. Lions offensive lineman said with a wide smile this week. “But I was very happy.”
The Montreal native didn’t know it then, but that October 2014 game against the New Orleans Saints where he was pressed into service as a rookie left tackle would be his career highlight south of the border.
After two seasons with Carolina where he mostly just practised, and another spent at his parents’ home waiting by the phone for another shot, Foucault is eager to get back on the field â€” this time in the CFL.
“It’s just fun to play football again (and) compete,” he said following a session at Lions’ minicamp that included a minor scuffle with a teammate after one drill. “It’s been a long time for me.”
Knowing that Foucault â€” a six-foot-eight 315-pound mountain of a man â€” was looking to continue his career in his home country, the Lions acquired his rights from the Montreal Alouettes last month for fellow offensive lineman Jovan Olafioye after the six-time all-star couldn’t agree on a new contract with B.C.
Foucault, who tucks his flowing blond hair into a ponytail under his helmet, came to terms on a three-year deal with the Lions two weeks after the trade.
“When you get a guy who’s been in the NFL … obviously the culture of football is big,” said Lions head coach and general manager Wally Buono. “That kind of guy is going to help your team.”
Selected fifth overall by Montreal at the 2014 CFL draft, Foucault attended Carolina’s rookie minicamp that spring and signed a contract before making the team out of training camp, appearing in five regular-season games.
He spent most of the following year on the practice roster as the Panthers made it all the way to the Super Bowl before losing to the Denver Broncos, but was cut prior to the 2016 campaign.
Foucault, 28, said despite the disappointing end, he enjoyed his time in Carolina, especially since he got to work alongside Newton, the NFL’s MVP in 2015.
“He’s a good guy, good leadership,” said Foucault. “He’s very enthusiastic on the field and everything. It was a nice experience.”
Buono said at the time of the trade that if there wasn’t a salary cap he wouldn’t have let Olafioye go. But Foucault’s addition presents the Lions with the option of starting four Canadians on the offensive line, a luxury that would give B.C. the flexibility to play an extra American elsewhere.
“He’s a big man, he moves well,” said Buono. “You want to see a guy with a work ethic. You want to see a guy that’s got the physical skills, but you also want to see a guy that enjoys being out here.”
Foucault lined up at both guard and tackle during minicamp â€” he’s more comfortable at tackle â€” and admitted it will take some time to get used to smaller pass rushers starting a yard off the ball.
But he’s ready for whatever is thrown at him.
“If the coach called me to be centre, I have to do it,” he said, adding with a grin: “If they call me to be a quarterback, I do it.”
Foucault was asked about rust due to his inactivity, but said apart from being a little sore there shouldn’t be a problem.
And while he can’t control who he was traded for or the expectations to follow, any pressure will probably pale in comparison to what he experienced that fall night back in 2014 when he was tasked with trying to keep Newton upright.
“I know (Olafioye’s) a good all-star,” said Foucault. “He was here for a long time … but I think it’s a good pressure.
“That’s why I work hard.”
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press