There’s a way to find out the true essence of Manny Arceneaux but to really understand what the B.C. Lions receiver is all about it’s first best to learn about his second self.
“You know how everyone has their alter ego? Mine is Caesar from Planet of the Apes,” Arceneaux said during a recent break to his practice day.
Caesar? That would be leader of the Ape Army and patriarch of the Royal Ape family, the one that eventually grew to become devoted and protective of his fellow apes, a proven leader. That Ceasar.
Better to let the man himself explain.
“That’s me,” agreed Arceneaux. “Just a beast, an outright beast; not being afraid. Caesar was a good leader. You ever seen the movie the way he was able to lead? That’s what I’m based on. You won’t see me back down from anyone at any point of a game. A lot of people know me as a character but I switch it up now and then.”
Truth be told, Arceneaux has been switching up for the better part of his six CFL seasons with the Lions, confusing outsiders with a constant mix of on-field smack talk with a dose of humility when asked to actually define his place within the Lions infrastructure.
What has taken place so far this season, however, has been something entirely different and speaks to the fact that it is entirely possible to speak volumes based on a career-high 1,566 receiving yards during the regular season.
There are a number of receiving threats who will be on the field for both teams when the Lions play host to only their first West Division semifinal in 30 years Sunday against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. It is folly to ignore, for example, the potential of Darvan Adams, Tori Gurley and Weston Dressler as game-changing threats for Winnipeg.
Arceneaux, however, will be one receiver on the field Sunday who doesn’t yet appear as if he has reached the upper limits of his potential, even though he made the most of the career-high 154 targets so far, good for a league-high 13 touchdown catches and third in yardage only behind Edmonton’s Adarius Bowman and Derel Walker.
It would seem as if there’s a coincidence behind the fact Arceneaux’s yardage totals have gone up in a year in which the talking has gone down, but if you’ve been following closely, the drop in verbiage began last year.
Arceneaux said he dialed down the amount of vitriol on social media, which meant nearly every story written about him contained some reference to his self-styled Manny Show, because it was directing the spotlight in the wrong place.
“I was actually making other guys known,” said Arceneaux. “A lot of people talk trash to me but DBs that don’t even cover me are saying to me in pre-game ‘you’re the one I want; I want to cover you.’
“I’ve been blessed. I haven’t been a one-hit wonder. Each year I’ve gotten better. The B.C. lions keep giving me opportunities to actually lead and get better.”
There was a time earlier during his Lions stay that teammates learned to deal with Arceneaux by simply letting him talk. But there’s a maturity that has been evident all season with Arceneaux, who doesn’t disagree when it is suggested some of it may have been acquired when having to deal with an engagement that went off the rails last fall.
He admits there have been times when he has been purposeful in letting those outside his world think he was angry and wanted to leave, especially during the latter stages of last season that was forgettable not only to Arceneaux but everyone with the Lions.
Yet weeks after suggesting he might want to try free agency last year and possibly make a third attempt to stick in the NFL, Arceneaux signed a two-year deal worth a reported $425,000, citing a closeness to the Lions and their fan base.
He has no regrets either, when asked if he wishes he could be in position to cash in on a career year.
“You know why I don’t regret it? B.C. did something for me no team ever does. When I tore my ACL (in 2013) they actually offered me an extension. For a team to believe in me going into surgery? They could have been done with me; they could have said he won’t be the same player. But they showed they trusted me.
“Last year I probably thought it was my last time in black and orange. But this is all I know. The grass isn’t always greener. Its green where you water it at.”
The view of Arceneaux from a distance has been occasionally been more gray than green, most notably midway through last season when it was suggested more than once that he should be cut.
“I always felt with Manny sometimes he would lose his focus,” said coach/GM Wally Buono this week.
The view is much different, reflective of a player who has given plenty to the club’s community programs, the closer you get to Arceneaux.
“I don’t think I ever had a true impression of him other than I knew he was a hard worker,” said Lions receivers coach Marcel Bellefeuille, who most recently studied Arceneaux as the Bombers’ offensive coordinator last year. “I didn’t know about his personality. I didn’t have an idea he was that detailed and focused as a person.”
Focused, and according to TSN analyst Milt Stegall, the most physical receiver in the CFL this year.
Arceneaux says it is happening for him because he is just one part of a receiving corps that has come up with its best one-two punch in over a decade; the 2,958 yards he and Bryan Burnham have posted this year coming just under the combined totals in 2004 of Geroy Simon and Jason Clermont.
Arceneaux and Burnham represent the Lions’ best chance to win Sunday, though the Bombers became better and halting as the season series between the teams progressed in October. In the first game with Winnipeg, Burnham and Arceneaux torched the Bombers secondary with a combined 358 yards from 19 catches. In the second contest, the pair only had 64 yards from six grabs.
“Here, it’s the pizza theory,” says Arceneaux, explaining the Lions offence. “Everybody takes their share and their part. One night Burnham has a game, next night it’s me or (Shawn) Gore. It’s complimentary style football, where we take pride in the run game and being able to block. It’s about me being a complete wideout.”
It’s also about knowing who Arceneaux is and where he fits in the Lions ecosystem. Stop and ask Arceneaux about the poster stuck outside his locker which has a cartoon of Daffy Duck under the words Let’s Get Dangerous. He’ll introduce you to Caesar. It’s one of the many sides of Manny.
LIONS TALES: Gore, who only played in one of the two games against Winnipeg, hasn’t been at practice all week as the receiver deals with concussion-related symptoms which have returned since his initial injury. Rookie Shaq Johnson will again take Gore’s roster spot.