HAMILTON - Avon Cobourne may have returned to his old team after being released in the off-season, but it’s all new to him.
There’s a new head coach, a new starting quarterback and a new offence to learn at the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' training camp. And it means the usually chirpy, highly decorated running back has come back with a certain degree of humility.
“I’m a very humble guy,” he said with a smile Monday after practice at McMaster University. “This is an opportunity that most people don’t get and I’m blessed for them to call me. And I’m humble. But at the same time, I’m not in any way letting them take advantage of me.
"It’s a humbling experience. But going into it, I still have to do what I have to do and come out here and perform or it’s the next guy up.”
Cobourne, 33, played five seasons with the Montreal Alouettes before joining the Ticats in 2011, where he finished the year with 961 rushing yards and 459 receiving yards.
He was released in the off-season once the Ticats signed Martell Mallett, the 2009 CFL rookie of the year who had gone to the NFL before returning north. But Mallett went down with a season-ending Achilles injury last Thursday, and Cobourne got the phone call at his Orlando home where he had begun a new career selling insurance.
He left his pregnant wife and young son with their blessing to go back to playing the game he loves. And now the man with two Grey Cup rings from Montreal, 4,262 rushing yards and 2,173 receiving yards over six CFL seasons, is facing some new challenges.
“It kind of hit me yesterday,” he said. “Man, how come everybody else knows this (the offensive plays and drills) and I don’t? And I was upset at myself. Then I realized, hold on, they had mini-camp and everything else to go with it and another week (of camp). But I’m picking it up.
"Just because of that, I felt like I had to learn it even faster, because I didn’t know. I’m picking it up faster than I thought I would.”
Head coach George Cortez said the first thing he asked Cobourne when he arrived in Hamilton was what kind of shape he was in. Cobourne said he’s fit but needs to get himself in "football shape."
And the running back known as a champion trash-talker is also keeping it quiet right now.
“You can’t really talk, if you don’t know,” he said. “Right now, I’ve got to fall back because I really don’t know what’s going on.”
Cobourne said having a veteran CFL quarterback like Henry Burris at the helm makes things a little easier. Burris, for his part, is excited to finally line up on the same side as Cobourne.
“I’m looking forward to playing with a guy like (Cobourne), who has helped make his team better wherever he’s been,” Burris said.
But he’ll have to wait a while longer. Since he only arrived in Hamilton over the weekend, Cortez said Cobourne will not see any action in Wednesday’s pre-season home game against Toronto.
And Cobourne is fine with that decision.
“I’ll get out there and I won’t know what I’m doing and embarrass myself,” he said. “So I’m very, very much cool with that.”