Riders’ OL coach Stephen Sorrells: Brendon LaBatte will make Hall of Fame ‘the first year he’s eligible’

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ offensive line coach Stephen Sorrells had some extraordinarily high praise for nine-time all-star Brendon LaBatte.

“He’s going to be a Hall of Famer in the first year he’s eligible,” said Sorrells in a videoconference this past week. “In my opinion, he’s probably one of the best three Canadian o-linemen that ever played in the CFL.”

LaBatte elected not to play football in 2021, citing concerns regarding COVID regulations and time away from his family. He spent the past four years playing under Sorrells and the pair developed a close relationship.

“He’s got good football left in him and he’s a great leader,” said Sorrells. “He’s just an incredible person. My mom passed away from COVID at the end of December and LaBatte was a guy that was calling me every couple of days, checking on me for a long time, making sure I was OK. … That kind of person right there, to me, is going to be what we miss the most.”

Not wanting to anger anyone who he may not include, Sorrell declined to provide his full list of the greatest Canadian offensive linemen in CFL history. He remains confident that LaBatte is in the top three or five.

“Scott Flory’s probably up there, some other guys, but I don’t want to be somewhere someday, ‘I can’t believe you didn’t say my name!’ I got enough people that get on me, so I don’t need any more,” said Sorrell with a laugh.

The Canadian Football Hall of Fame has had very few first-ballot inductees with only 22 people — ten percent of all members — being inducted in their first year of eligibility. The only offensive lineman in that group is Gene Makowsky, who played seventeen seasons at guard and tackle for the Riders from 1995-2011.

There are still plenty of questions surrounding how Saskatchewan’s offensive line will look without Brendon LaBatte. Veteran nationals Evan Johnson, Dan Clark, and Brett Boyko are likely to start along the interior with Logan Ferland, Mattland Riley, Josiah St. John, Logan Bandy, Jesse Lawson, and Carter Comeau competing for depth spots.

Sorrells is entering his fifth season with the Riders having spent the previous fourteen years coaching the NCAA level with Southern Methodist University, Pearl River Community College, University of Alabama-Birmingham, Kenyon College, Occidental College and Faulkner University.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.