For Ben D’Aguilar, Hamilton is home and tigers have meaning

Like any good Hamilton boy, Ben D’Aguilar has a cool Labour Day story.

“The year I was in tyke football, we won the championship and they hooked us up with tickets to the Labour Day game at Ivor Wynne. But our team was called the Argos so we went to the game wearing our jerseys,” D’Aguilar said. “But when we got there, I was like, ‘What the heck are those, are those tigers? What? That’s my favourite animal.’ So I just jumped boats about halfway through the game.”

Born and raised in Hamilton — he played for Barton Secondary School then won a Vanier Cup with McMaster Marauders — D’Aguilar was signed by his hometown team on Wednesday, part of a five-player influx of Canadian talent brought in to bolster an injury-ravaged lineup. Also added were linebackers Frank Renaud and Akeem Whonder, defensive back Tristan Doughlin and receiver Mitchell Baines, who is the brother of Ticats assistant coach Jarryd Baines.

The moves come after the Ticats lost three more Canadians during their 24-22 win over Toronto on Monday: receiver Giovanni Aprile as well as national running backs Mercer Timmis and Sean Thomas-Erlington have been added to the six-game injured list. Aprile was starting while Timmis was playing a valuable rotational role.

Additionally, Canadian safety Courtney Stephen missed practice on Wednesday and his status is unknown for Saturday’s crucial matchup against the Ottawa Redblacks.

The losses are just the latest in a series of injuries that have robbed the team of much of its Canadian talent and depth, including all-star defensive tackle Ted Laurent. Of the 14 players currently on the team’s six-game injured list, eight are Canadian and five have started at some point this season. Two others, including Timmis and linebacker Nick Shortill, were significant contributors as well.

“It’s a major issue right now, we’re bringing guys in and get them plugged in at certain spots so they know their plays,” head coach June Jones said. “It’s part of the business, but to have this many is unusual. We’re going to adjust and eliminate some things but I don’t think it will be noticeable to the game plan.”

D’Aguilar has by far the most CFL experience of the new additions, having played in 53 games over five seasons after being drafted by the Calgary Stampeders in the second round of the 2013 CFL draft. He’s a quality special teams player who can also provide depth at defensive end where the Ticats are currently starting one of their seven Canadians.

The 28-year-old had been back in Hamilton for just over a week and interviewing for a job as a personal trainer when his agent texted with the opportunity. It was an easy and instantaneous decision: in addition to the made-for-TV script — hometown boy plays for the hometown team — D’Aguilar has tiger-themed tattoos covering much of his right arm and leg.

They aren’t Ticats-related but instead carry a more personal meaning.

“At a young age, I had a lot of responsibility and had to do a lot to take care of my family. One day, I was watching National Geographic and a documentary about tigers came on,” he explained. “It helped give me some direction. Tigers are strong but they’re also kind of isolated, and I was isolated at the time but still had to be strong. It stuck with me.”

Notes: The Ticats also signed kick returner and receiver Willie Quinn, who at 5-foot-5 becomes the shortest Hamilton player on the roster (Brandon Banks is listed at 5-foot-7.) A speedster like Banks, Quinn had a productive career at Southern University and A&M College with more than 3,000 yards receiving and 11 return touchdowns over three seasons … the team also placed starting SAM linebacker Dominique Ellis on the six-game injured list … Jones said all-star Canadian defensive tackle Ted Laurent is still a couple of weeks away.