CFL players come in from all sorts of backgrounds, and that often makes for an interesting mix in training camps between Canadians, Americans, rookies trying to figure out this league and established veterans who know how Canadian football works. Players often form connections beyond just their status, though, as they often come from the same areas or have played with or against teammates in the NCAA or CIS ranks. Sometimes, the connections are even more interesting than that, and that's the case with B.C. Lions' offensive line prospect Levi Horn and safety J.R. LaRose. AsLowell Ullrich writes, the two have a partly-shared heritage, and one that could make the Lions an anomaly in pro sports if both make the roster:
Horn is a registered member of a branch of the Cheyenne tribe, and so much wants to make the roster of the CFL team so he can keep giving back. Not just for a wife and child back home in Missoula, Mont., but for the native Americans who see him as a hero simply for what he has already accomplished. ...
That Horn might be able to make a difference, playing as a backup offensive lineman for the Lions alongside Cree safety J.R. LaRose, on what would be the only pro team in North America currently with two native roster players, would be nothing short of historic.
"I've got a lot of people cheering for me," Horn said.
The two players connected almost immediately at the start of Lions training camp. If anyone could relate to the rookie, even one who is 6-7 and 330 pounds, it was LaRose, whose father was deported at an early age. He was raised by a single mother on welfare in a family where drug addiction was widespread.
Football was the only father figure to Horn, whose mother raised three children on her own while battling lupus since she was in high school. Weighing nearly 12 pounds at birth, the game was a natural draw, except for the fact he couldn't afford proper equipment. A 6-4, 240-pounder in grade eight, he started by playing basketball because his high school coach bought him a pair of sneakers.
Both Horn and LaRose have gone through some tough times, but both have shown they've got the capability to play football at a high level. LaRose came into the league following an impressive junior career with the Edmonton Huskies. He's spent eight seasons in the CFL and suffered innumerable injuries along the way, but he finally has an excellent chance to win a starting job thanks to Cauchy Muamba's departure for Winnipeg. Meanwhile, Horn started off as a tight end at the University of Oregon, then switched to offensive line. He transferred to Montana and starred on the line there, and he's since spent two years with the NFL's Chicago Bears, plus a stint with the Minnesota Vikings and a brief time with the Arena Football League's Spokane Shock. Both certainly could have the potential to make the Lions' roster, although LaRose obviously will have an easier time of it given his CFL experience and his non-import status.