Brendon LaBatte is a 21st century Bob Poley.
He doesn’t have the legendary moustache and would probably admit to not having as colourful a personality as Polecat, as very few do.
But there are plenty of other similarities.
Not only did they each grow up in Saskatchewan playing other sports and doing time with the Regina Rams, but both have won a Grey Cup ring while manning the interior of the Rider o-line — Poley in 1989, LaBatte in 2013.
Both spent four CFL seasons playing somewhere other than Saskatchewan — Poley with Calgary and LaBatte with Winnipeg — before choosing to go home and be with the Riders.
It is highly unlikely that LaBatte will command the same notoriety after his playing days are over that Poley continues to enjoy almost 30 years into his retirement. But where LaBatte wins this comparison, hands-down, is around on-field accolades.
Six all-star selections and being named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman in 2013 has solidified LaBatte’s place in Roughrider and CFL history, no matter what happens from here on out.
At age 34, having sat out most of last year with a sports hernia injury, it is clear the end is a lot closer than the beginning for LaBatte’s career. He admitted to thinking long and hard about retirement before an American-based physician convinced him to undergo a career-extending surgery.
After looking like his old self over the final six games of last season, he endured that heart-breaking end to the 2019 West Final loss to Winnipeg. It is clear that when the CFL does return from COVID-19, the Riders will rely heavily on the Weyburn native to protect their new face of the franchise in quarterback Cody Fajardo.
And given the similarities to Poley’s career path, there is plenty of optimism that there is still ball left in LaBatte’s future. He would need to play three more seasons to equal Polecat’s 15-year career and, given the fact that Poley played right until his 37th birthday, there’s no reason to think LaBatte won’t have time to do just that.
A stock-car racer in the off-season, the Riders hope LaBatte will put that career on hold to get just a bit more mileage out of the 64th best CFL player on this countdown.
3DownNation is unveiling its list of the top 100 active CFL players, a project that will run through December 31, 2020. To read the criteria for player eligibility, click here. The list to date can be found below.
67 OL SirVincent Rogers, Ottawa Redblacks
68. QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Free Agent
69. DB/RET Frankie Williams, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
70. DB T.J. Lee, B.C. Lions
71. QB Zach Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
72. SAM Anthony Cioffi, Free Agent
73. DB Shaquille Richardson, Toronto Argonauts
74. REC Kamar Jorden, Calgary Stampeders
75. OL Darius Ciraco, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
76. REC Jalen Saunders, Free Agent
77. QB Dane Evans, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
78. REC Brad Sinopoli, Ottawa Redblacks
79. RET Janarion Grant, Free Agent
80. DE Avery Ellis, Ottawa Redblacks
81. DE Cordarro Law, Calgary Stampeders
82. DB Brandon Alexander, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
83. OL Jermarcus Hardrick, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
84. DB Branden Dozier, Free Agent
85. SAM Otha Foster, Saskatchewan Roughriders
86. DB Antoine Pruneau, Ottawa Redblacks
87. RB John White, B.C. Lions
88. LB Avery Williams, Ottawa Redblacks
89. LB Jovan Santos-Knox, Free Agent
90. DB Richard Leonard, Calgary Stampeders
91. REC Armanti Edwards, Edmonton Football Team
92. RB C.J. Gable, Free Agent
93. DT Mike Rose, Calgary Stampeders
94. REC S.J. Green, Free Agent
95. DB Mike Edem, Saskatchewan Roughriders
96. DE John Bowman, Montreal Alouettes
97. DB Taylor Loffler, Montreal Alouettes
98. QB Nick Arbuckle, Ottawa Redblacks
99. ST Mike Miller, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
100. DE Chris Casher, B.C. Lions