VANIER CHEETAH FOOTBALL
CREDIT: JOHN KENNEY, THE GAZETTE
Stingers' Blake Butler (left) and Cedric Ferdinand at practice at Concordia on Thursday. Both are carrying on a family gridiron tradition.
Following in dad's football steps
Stingers, Carabins battle in Shrine Bowl. Fathers of Concordia's wide-receiver Butler and running-back Ferdinand played pro ball
RANDY PHILLIPS, The Gazette. Saturday, October 15, 2005
Like father, like son.
Concordia Stingers wide-receiver Blake Butler and running- back Cedric Ferdinand are proof the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Butler's father, Al, played with the NFL's New York Giants in the mid-1960s and with the CFL Alouettes in the early '70s.
Ferdinand's late father, Denny, was a fullback in the Canadian Football League with the Concordes (1982-85), then Saskatch-ewan, and finally Ottawa. The Trinidadian-born Montrealer was a finalist for the CFL's outstanding Canadian award in '83. He died in 2002 of heart arrhythmia at age 40 at home in Ottawa.
"I did see my dad play because he kept a lot of tapes," said Ferdinand, 22, in his rookie season with the sixth-ranked Stingers, who face the No. 4 Montreal Carabins in the annual Shrine Bowl today (1 p.m., RDS) at Concordia Stadium. "He was big, strong, quick and played a very physical game. The amazing thing to me is that by the time he was my age, he had already turned professional.
"A lot of people tell me I have his bursts (of speed). I'm not as big as he was (6-foot, 205 pounds), but I think I do have some of his quickness," said the 5-foot-9, 185-pound human-relations student.
Butler, 23, is also in his first year with the Stingers, but second year in terms of college eligibility. The 6-foot-5, 227-pound Pointe Claire native played on an athletic scholarship at the University of Tennessee at Martin in 2003. He attended Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif., last year, opting to return to a junior college instead of sitting out a year at Concordia to become eligible to play in Canadian Interuniversity Sport this season.
His father played as a defensive back with the Giants from 1965 to '70, and was in the Als defensive secondary in '72 and '73.
"My dad always wanted me to play (defensive back) because he had, but I didn't like it," Butler said. "When he saw I could catch a ball, he came around."
Butler, who like Ferdinand is also a product of the junior college football program at Vanier College, is pursuing an arts degree at Concordia. He has started all five games for the Stingers (4-1) this season and is averaging more than a dozen yards per reception, but still hasn't scored at TD in the CIS.
His "uncle" is former Als running-back Johnny Rodgers, the so-called Ordinary Superstar whose trademark was scoring touchdowns while running backward into the end zone. Rodgers, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1972 as the top player in U.S. college football, starred with the Alouettes from 1973 to '76. As a close friend of the family, Rodgers encouraged the young Blake to play football.
Blake's father, however, has been the most influential.
"He's always been my coach."
His father has coached for more than 20 years at the amateur level on the West Island.
"It's good to have someone there for you, trying to help you become better," Blake said.
Ferdinand lives with his grandparents in the same home his father grew up in on the West Island. He's the eldest of five children, all boys, including twins who were born six months after his father died.
"One of my brothers is playing junior football and another plays midget," Ferdinand said. "The twins just turned three last week ... but they're training."