By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
MONTREAL -- The run was nearly as easy as it looked.
It was July 1, the season-opener for the Montreal Alouettes and the Saskatchewan Roughriders. It was also a rematch of last year's Canadian Football League championship game, also called the Grey Cup.
Montreal wide receiver Tim Maypray, the very same Tim Maypray who starred at Randolph-Macon Academy and Virginia Military Institute, stood in the Saskatchewan end zone, just left of the field goal post.
Saskatchewan kicker Luca Congi sent a field goal attempt up, the ball swerved left. Maypray was 15 yards into the end zone when he caught the missed field goal. He bolted toward the left sideline, skipped back to the middle of the field. He juked left, then right, zipped through midfield to the right sideline.
Dan Goodspeed, Saskatchewan's 6-foot-6, 313-pound offensive lineman, didn't live up to his namesake, leaping for Maypray's legs at midfield, plopping empty-handed into the Canadian grass.
Some 125 yards from where he caught the missed field goal, Maypray scored his first touchdown as a professional football player. It also tied an Alouettes record.
Exhausted, Maypray collapsed in the end zone. Alouettes cornerback De'Audra Dix swooped into him with a congratulatory hug.
"That was great, really exciting," said Maypray, a rookie with the Alouettes. "Especially coming in and being new on the team, trying to contribute as much as possible, it's a really good feeling."
Maypray's return was featured on ESPN SportsCenter Top 10 Plays, but Maypray didn't see it. Had he not recently gotten a new phone, he expects he would have received a continual stream of phone calls. Instead, his Facebook page caught the bulk of the attention.
But though Maypray's third-quarter scramble couldn't ward off a Saskatchewan comeback -- the Roughriders won 54-51 in overtime -- it served as a microcosm of Maypray's careers at R-MA and VMI, and was evidence enough of why Montreal, the defending Grey Cup champion, reached into Northern Virginia in its search for a return specialist.
As a senior at R-MA, Maypray rushed for 1,702 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also caught 34 passes for 673 yards and seven touchdowns.
As a freshman at VMI, Maypray's dynamism didn't rest. The 87 all-purpose yards he nabbed each game ranked sixth in the Big South Conference, earning him the title Big South Freshman of the Year.
In his sophomore season he was named first team All-Big South as a kick returner, and second team All-Big South as a wide receiver. His 1,975 all-purpose yards set a Big South single-season record, and ranks fifth most in VMI history.
In 2008, his junior season, Maypray moved to quarterback. He became the first Big South quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards, and the first Big South player to both run and catch for 1,000 yards in a career.
In his senior season, Maypray was named Big South Offensive Preseason Player of the Year and racked up 1,850 all-purpose yards.
He left VMI with 6,129 all-purpose yards, earning them at a clip of 142.5 yards per game.
It wasn't until his junior year at VMI that Maypray really considered playing professional football. Initially, Maypray sought a career in the Air Force, preferably as a fighter pilot. But that dream will be put on hold for now -- playing professional football has a funny way of doing that.
"I want to play as long as I can, and possibly maybe do the Air Force thing afterward," Maypray said. "But right now it's kind of on the back burner until I get done playing football."
Listed as a wide receiver, Maypray's primary position is return specialist -- specifically, he's slated to be the replacement for Larry Taylor, who returned 51 kickoffs for 1,059 yards last year.
Maypray's perfectly fine with that role.
"We have a great group of receivers right now," Maypray said. "Being a rookie, and the style of plays that they have are extremely different -- as of right now I'll be [playing] on special teams, and possibly getting a little work here and there in the offense.
"I'm really happy to be in the position that I'm in right now -- especially being one of two people on the team that weren't here last year -- so I'm just looking to do my job and try to continue to help the team."
Maypray joined Montreal at the insistence of two former Alouettes, both of whom have ties to VMI. Winston October, now the receivers coach at VMI, and Thomas Haskins, a former Keydets running back, served as Maypray's connections into the CFL.
Maypray signed with Montreal and endured rookie camp and preseason training camp before making the team.
Maypray has adjusted well to the Canadian game, citing the bigger field -- CFL fields are 110 yards long -- as the most obvious difference from the American game. The other variance is that receivers in the CFL enjoy a pre-snap jog to the line of scrimmage.
Montreal's next game will be at the Edmonton Eskimos on Sunday. Montreal will have four games aired in the United States on the NFL Network, and ESPN3 streams live CFL games online.
Maypray said he's enjoyed immediate success only because his teammates have brought him along so well. Perhaps with a few more scrumptious returns, Maypray's contributions will see Montreal to another Grey Cup appearance.
"For [Montreal], and for me also, it's just a building block," Maypray said. "From there we're just gonna go on and continue to put me in the right position to make more plays, and hopefully I'll get that done."