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Maypray made an impression despite loss

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One game won’t erase the memories of Larry Taylor or all the other great return-specialists the Alouettes have had over the years.

But Tim Maypray, the newest Montreal player to fill that role, has already written the first chapter to what he hopes will be a long and successful career.

“It was a great opportunity to go out and try to make some plays,” Maypray said. “It was a great experience for my first time as a pro.”

The 5-foot-8, 170-pound rookie, only 22, returned a field goal 125 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter last Thursday, against Saskatchewan. The score tied a team record, established by Ezra Landry in 2005, and staked the Als to a 33-12 lead – although they lost to the Roughriders in double overtime.

Maypray, coincidentally, fumbled the kick before recovering. He started down the left sideline, cut into the middle and easily outraced all defenders. He retained the ball as a souvenir.

“I thought the kick would be longer,” he explained. “I thought the wind caught it.

“We had a lot of blockers set up on the left side,” Maypray added. “My teammates did a great job of setting up the blocks. It was a great call by the coaches, and my teammates executed it.”

Maypray also returned five kickoffs for 118 yards, including a longest of 31, while being limited to one punt return of 12 yards. With 13 touchdowns in the game, Louie Sakoda punted only five times, as did Damon Duval.

“I could have hit the seam a little better,” Maypray said. “And I fell on one.”

With Taylor still part of the New York Jets’ training camp roster, Maypray seized the opportunity, although the Als’ return specialist was expected to be Chad Owens. Owens refused to take a pay cut and was traded to Toronto following training camp. Owens returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown against Calgary last week.

Maypray came to Montreal following a spectacular collegiate career at Virginia Military Institute, where he played receiver, running-back, returned kicks and, on occasion, was the quarterback. He scored 39 touchdowns over four years – four on returns, including an 86-yard punt return in 2008, against Gardner-Webb.

That, Maypray conceded, was exciting. But it paled to scoring as a pro.

“It’s a bigger feeling (in the CFL) because the level’s higher,” he said. “Especially coming in my first game of the season.”

Predictably, Maypray said his mentality is that every return has the potential of developing into a big play.

“You should look for something big,” he explained. “You want to be hungry.”

The Als undoubtedly hope he’s ravenous this Sunday, at Edmonton.

hzurkowsky@thegazette.canwest.com