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Former Alouette Robert Brown Making a Difference in Edmonton Schools



EDMONTON — It was early in his new career as a Constable with the Edmonton Police Service when reality hit former Alouettes defensive-lineman Robert Brown with the same ferocity with which he struck terror in opposing quarterbacks for 10 seasons.

He had to draw his gun — a 9-mm Glock — on a woman at crisis with her common-law husband who decided to start smashing windows with a hammer, was asked to drop the weapon, but wouldn’t. Eventually, she acquiesced. But for a few brief moments, Brown admits, his heart was pumping pretty good; the rush of adrenaline almost overpowering.

“I played with emotion, but out here you really have to control those things … being able to have a conversation with someone in crisis,” Brown said this week during an interview at the downtown division of Edmonton’s police headquarters — and before he was to begin a 10-hour shift at 5 p.m.

“I have to be honest — there have been times when I was scared,” he said, hesitating before answering the question. “You’re following a stolen ride. You don’t know what’s going to happen. You never know. There’s always a heightened awareness. Is that being scared? You don’t know what this potentially could turn into.”

Brown spent a successful and prosperous decade in the CFL, mostly with the Edmonton Eskimos. But in the midst of his career, he signed with the Als as a free-agent in 2002, spending four seasons in Montreal before returning to the Esks as a free agent. He won the Grey Cup with the Als his first season, losing two others.

At the height of his athletic career, Brown earned $150,000, which included incentives, for a 4 1/2-hour day from June until November. As a cop, his salary is $70,000, although he can pull in another $20,000 by accepting special duties. For this Brown, who’s married and the father of two young boys, will tell you he risks his life on a daily basis. It’s also why the soft-spoken and reflective 41-year-old, a deeply spiritual person, tells his wife and children on a daily basis how much he loves them.

Brown, still an imposing 6-foot-1 and 285 pounds, has never fired his gun. Nor has he been fired upon. That, however, doesn’t mean he hasn’t been faced with danger or perilous scenarios.

“Any call with someone else’s blood flying around. You have to understand, these are things you don’t see every day,” he said. “Someone could be bleeding from the head because they got hit with a brick, slashed on the arm because someone had a machete. You have to go find these people — but you have to take care of the (other) person, making sure they don’t die. There are things that happen right away that are scary and do happen.

“Death,” he added. “It’s always difficult. We, as officers, go to those calls more than you need to. There’s a lot of them. It’s going there … seeing … smelling. Death’s very traumatic. Whether they die naturally or commit suicide.”

When Brown, who considered himself a student of the game, retired after the 2007 season, he took a year off, contemplating his future. With a degree in exercise physiology from the University of Southern Mississippi, he considered returning to the U.S. to teach or continue his education. But he also wanted to give back to the community and make a difference in peoples’ lives.

Perhaps subconsciously, he was driven to police work. His father was a police officer in the U.S. military for 19 years, rising to the rank of Sergeant. Brown knew officers in Edmonton who worked in the community, donating their time and influencing lives. He did several ride-alongs as a civilian before enrolling in the police academy in February 2009. He graduated a year later and, following a three-month probationary period, a career was born.

But there was a steep learning curve, Brown admits, and plenty of errors along the way. The physical training was the least of his concerns, but he had never fired a handgun, had to study the Criminal Code and Charter of Rights, understanding the law. He didn’t even know, understandably, the procedure behind an arrest. Shift work was foreign to him, as was working with females.

“But anyone with a sports background would understand policing. It’s a team atmosphere. You have goals to accomplish,” Brown explained. “It’s everything … leadership, knowing your role, being organized. It seemed like a perfect and natural fit.”

But some three years ago, Brown decided to take a slightly different path within the police service, becoming part of the School Resource Officer Unit. The majority of his days are now spent patrolling the hallways at Eastglen High School, an inner-city educational institution where, according to Brown, trouble can easily be found with an enrolment of close to 900 students.

Brown’s one of 19 SRO’s, working in conjunction with the school’s administrators, hoping to steer these teenagers, easily influenced, down the road to prosperity. Or at least away from a potential life of crime. Brown, in his own small way, is trying to change the perceptions of police officers — trying to convince these kids they’re not all bad. He volunteers his time, coaching football and conducting strength conditioning workouts. In 2014, Brown won the Kiwanis Top Cop Award.

“Having that influence … letting them see we’re not actually police officers. We work as them, but we’re normal people — fathers, husbands, brothers,” he said. “Yes, there are some bad kids out there. Can we influence them to do better? I believe we can. Are there kids who believe police officers in schools are a joke? Yeah. Can we police that? Yes. Try to help them before they get into the judicial system.

“If they have questions or problems at home, this is less intrusive than going to a police station. It builds relationships and bridges. Now, it gets picked up immediately. We’re able now to intercede. At the end of the day you’re able to influence kids — kids who will be citizens for the better.”

And Brown’s making an impact. “Rob has been successful in reaching individuals. He has used his knowledge and ability from football to gain respect. He’s willing to talk to them,” said acting Sergeant Danny Franklin. “It’s his presence. You can’t ignore that physical presence he has the second he walks through the door.

“He’s a great guy. I respect him as an officer and person. He certainly has earned that level of respect.”

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Up and Coming Sports Stars to Look Out for in 2020



Every year, a raft of exciting new players come onto the scene across all of the major US sports. With the MLS season getting underway and the NFL and MLB drafts not too far away, now is a great time to look at the young sports stars that could have a very bright future ahead of them, and the ones that are already proving they are destined for greatness.

Theo Bair (MLS)

This MLS season is looking like it could be one of the best yet, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami team adding some extra dazzle to the league. Whilst Beckham might be able to attract a lot of new players to his MLS team, there are a lot of young stars on their way through such as Theo Bair at Vancouver Whitecaps. Bair has already made an impact on the first team and after impressing at under-20 and under-23 level for the national team, he has made two appearances for the senior team, well before his 21st birthday. This year could see Bair make a real name for himself in the MLS.

Source: Pixabay

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (MLB)

Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr has one MLB season under his belt but it looks like the best is still yet to come from him at the Blue Jays. He was heavily backed to take the league by storm but he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him. Without the pressure of being the top-ranked prospect, this season could see Guerrero play with some weight lifted off his shoulders. He has been working very hard on his fitness over the offseason, something that his manager Montoyo has been quick to comment upon.

Baseball by andrewmalone, on Flickr

Baseball” (CC BY 2.0) by andrewmalone

Connor McDavid (NHL)

McDavid has already established him as a top hockey player but at 23, he has the potential to go on to do so much more. The player was born in Ontario and was the first overall draft pick, showing how much expectation was already on him at that stage but he has gone on to prove that he is one of the best players in the NHL. McDavid could go on to be one the NHL’s best-ever hockey players and this season could be the year that he shows the world, not just the NHL.

Chuba Hubbard (College Football)

The Oklahoma State Cowboys running back has been making the headlines for several years now. He continues to improve and grab more attention for his impressive stats and performances. He was close to being a sprinter and nearly made the Canadian Olympic team before switching over to football. He is passing up the 2020 NFL draft to play his senior season at Cowboys. He should give them a good chance of winning the College Football Championship, though they’re trailing at the seventh spot in the latest American football odds at +2400.00, with Clemson as the current betting favorites.

2020 will definitely be a very exciting time with some of these young stars looking to breakthrough in their respective sports and show the world what they are capable of.

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Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby – and looking to break the Curse of Apollo



Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby with early favourite Justify after watching the race from his sofa in Southern California last year.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s ability to produce Derby contenders year after year is an enviable feat and why his absence a year ago stood out. It was just his second since 2009 and occurred because his lone candidate got hurt.

Baffert will saddle Justify and 30-to-1 shot Solomini in Saturday’s Derby.

Justify is one of the greenest colts Baffert has brought to Churchill Downs. He’s won all three of his starts by a combined 19 lengths. If Justify wins, he’d be the first to do so since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a two-year-old.

“The thing about the Kentucky Derby, you have to have the right horse. It just happens. You can’t force it,” Baffert said. “All of a sudden, you have good horses and you’re there. So I’ve been really fortunate to have some really good horses.”

Baffert’s four victories are tied for second-most in Derby history. He’s finished second three times, too, including in 2012 with Bodemeister, also the last time he had two starters in the same year.

Like Justify, Bodemeister didn’t race as a two-year-old. He set a blistering pace and led the Derby until the final 150 yards when I’ll Have Another overtook him to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

Magnum Moon, the 6-to-1 third choice, also is unbeaten and didn’t run as a two-year-old.

“It’s going to happen,” Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken. “Whether it happens this year or whatever, but it will happen because Bodemeister almost got away with it. But I don’t really worry about that.”

Baffert almost had a third starter this year until McKinzie developed a hind-end issue that knocked him off the Derby trail.

“When McKinzie got hurt, I wanted to throw up,” he said. “I really think McKinzie would probably be second choice here. We’d really have a 1-2 here.”

Justify cleared the biggest pre-Derby hurdle by drawing the No. 7 post. Jockey Mike Smith can use the colt’s early speed to position him well for the long run to the chaotic first turn. Solomini ended up in the No. 17 post; no horse has ever won from there.

Baffert turned 65 in January, making him eligible for Medicare and retirement at most other jobs. However, he entertains no such thoughts.

“I work hard at it. I just don’t give up,” the white-haired trainer said. “I’m constantly meeting people. They’re sending me horses. If you don’t have success, you’re not going to get those opportunities.”

After a successful run in the quarter horse ranks, Baffert switched to thoroughbreds. He started with one horse.

“After 25 years, I’m finally getting horses that I don’t have to buy,” he said. “The big guys are sending me horses.”

None was bigger than American Pharoah in 2015. The colt swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

Baffert has compared Justify to American Pharoah, citing the colt’s imposing physical presence and big stride. Still, Justify has yet to encounter the kind of traffic the Derby’s 20-horse stampede creates and the talent as he’ll run against on Saturday.

“I’d rather have a really talented horse than one who’s seasoned and just on par with the rest of them,” Baffert said.

Early on, Baffert knew Justify had the goods.

“The first time I worked him at Santa Anita, I knew he was a really good horse,” he said. “The track was really deep that morning, and he went around there effortlessly. His first race, he ran incredibly and showed how special he was.”

That kind of intuition is what separates Baffert from his rivals, fellow Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.

“Bob’s got a great feel for it,” he said.

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Matthews ready to return to Maple Leafs lineup after missing a month



NASHVILLE — The hurtin’ tune that Auston Matthews has been singing for the past four weeks finally can be put in the remainder bin in Music City.

The Maple Leafs’ top centre on Wednesday declared himself set to return to the lineup after recovering from a right shoulder injury.

Wonderful timing, of course, considering the Leafs will take on the No. 1 club in the National Hockey League, the Nashville Predators, on Thursday night.

“In my mind, I think I’m ready to go and taking it as I’m getting ready to play (Thursday),” Matthews said after resuming his normal role, between William Nylander and Zach Hyman, during practice at Bridgestone Arena.

“It felt good, nice to get in all the reps and everything. (Wednesday) was a good step forward in that process, going through the line rushes.”

It seemed probable that the Leafs also will have defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who missed the past five games as he recovered from an illness, against Nashville. Zaitsev was paired with Jake Gardiner, his regular partner, at practice.

For Matthews, it has been 10 games as a spectator with his latest injury, his third of the 2017-18 regular season after he missed four games in November with a back issue and then sat for six in December because of a concussion.

Thursday will mark four weeks since Matthews was hurt when he was sandwiched by the New York Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech in a game at the Air Canada Centre.

A major bonus for Matthews in his recovery has been the fact he has been able to skate though much of his recuperation. That was not the case when he was out with his previous two injuries.

It’s worth noting that Matthews scored two goals versus the Montreal Canadiens upon returning on Nov. 18 from his back injury; in his first two games upon coming back from a concussion, he scored a goal in each.

Mike Babcock said a final decision on the participation of Matthews and Zaitsev against the Predators would be made on Thursday morning, but the Leafs coach was talking as though it would be a rubber stamp.

“This is going to be the best opportunity for (Matthews) because he has been able to skate and compete,” Babcock said. “The other times he was not able to do anything.

“To get him back … it’s still going to be going way faster than he has been practising, so there is going to be an adjustment period, but he’s a good player and he will figure it out.”

Defenceman Morgan Rielly didn’t think Matthews will take long to find his footing. Rielly missed six games in late January/early February with an arm injury, so knows what Matthews could be feeling.

“You’re nervous and you just want to get back into it,” Rielly said. “You play your first shift a bit hesitant, but after that it’s important you get back to yourself.

“It’s never easy, but Auston is one of those guys that I will imagine it won’t take long for him to get back into a rhythm.”

And there’s the trickle-down effect through the forward lines with Matthews in uniform.

“Guys are used to playing with certain players and when everyone is healthy, I think you get better chemistry throughout the entire lineup,” centre Nazem Kadri said. “Certain guys don’t have to play with different guys constantly and it’s just more of a set group, so I think it’s going to help us.”

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