The Montreal Alouettes were able to land ratio-breaking middle linebacker Henoc Muamba this off-season. This is Muamba’s second stint in Montreal, but his first time going through training with the team, so this is something new for him.
I had an opportunity to talk to the 29-year-old after Monday’s practice at Percival Molson Stadium. We discussed the freedom he has in defensive coordinator Rich Stubler’s defence, the structure that head coach Mike Sherman brings to the team, his appreciation for fellow Canadian linebacker Chris Ackie and much, much more.
Joey Alfieri: I know you’ve played in Montreal before, but what’s it like to be here from the start of training camp?
Henoc Muamba: It’s great, it’s awesome. It’s completely different. I don’t even compare it to the last time I was here. It’s football, but it’s a completely different atmosphere out here compared to the last time I was here and I’m just enjoying myself.
Coach (Stubler) is a heck of a coach. I’m loving the system. It’s Day 2, we’re all-as a defence- trying to still gel together, getting to know one and other and understanding the intricacies of the scheme. I think it’s looking good.
JA: This is the first time you’re coached by coach Stubler, what did you know about him and his system?
HM: I’ve known and heard about him and his system. My brother played under him as well, so I’ve heard nothing but good things about him and I can see why.
JA: What jumps out at you about Stubler and his defence?
HM: He’s a great teacher, man. He teaches like one of the best coaches I’ve had. Teaches really well. Outside of that, as far as the scheme goes, he gives so much freedom and it’s so much freedom that a lot of the guys aren’t used to the amount of freedom you have. Little things like, ‘hey look, I know I wrote it down like this, but you can play around with it. Hey, you want to send the [defensive] end around this side, you can do it as long as you replace him’. Things like that.
Football is a very military sport, so as football players we’re always used to structure. Hey, you have to wake up at this time we have meetings starting exactly at this time, so structure is part of football. But to be able to have that kind of freedom is uncomfortable, but it’s good. It’s a good uncomfortable because i’ve never been able to have that much freedom on the football field and I’m enjoying it. I can’t wait to start feeling really, really comfortable as the days progress.
JA: Only two days into camp, but what has it been like to play for coach Sherman?
HM: We have a good group of coaches, man. Coach Sherman is one of the better coaches I’ve seen as far as a head coach goes. Just the way he structures the day. I’m talking about structure and freedom at the same time (laughs), but for him, from a head coach standpoint, the structure of it is great. There’s a lot of camps where you go out there- and I’m not saying this camp is easy- I’m saying it’s well structured to where it’s always productive. There’s a lot of camps where you just focus on running all day, but at the end of it you’re not as productive as you can be. I think he structures it very well and he knows, ‘okay, they’ve been going hard for this long, we’re going to have a teach period now’. So you’re getting to learn while you’re catching your breath, getting ready for the next period. You can tell, he’s been around football for a long time and he’s got a really good handle on it. He touches on the good things and the important things from the morning all the way to the evening. Nothing but praise for coach Sherman.
JA: How much can the structure from the head coach help propel this team to the next level?
HM: It’s extremely important. It’s pro sports, everyone can play, right? (Sherman) even said this yesterday as a matter of fact. The difference between good and great is this small. If the difference between a good team in the CFL and another good team in the CFL is good structure and good coaching staff, why not take it? So we’ll take that and we’ll go forward with it.
JA: There’s a chance that this team might start two Canadian linebackers with you and Chris Ackie. How excited are you for that?
HM: I’m super proud of Chris, man. Chris and I go way back. He’s one of my youngest brother’s best friends and I’m just proud of him and the evolution that he’s had in this game and at the pro level. We talk all the time. We train in the offseason from time to time. To see him get to the level to where he’s at and he’s not missing a beat. He’s asking all the right questions, he’s doing what he needs to do in terms of taking that next step as a pro, especially after coming off an injury (torn bicep), man. It hasn’t bothered him. He fights through a lot of pain. It’s training camp so everyone’s hurting, but I haven’t heard one complaint from him. But he’s coming to me, ‘hey Henoc, when we’re running this, what are we doing?’ And he’s very coachable, too. Obviously coach Stubler is liking him as well.
Obviously I have more experience than Chris, but I’ve never played next to a Canadian WILL linebacker and I actually told him that today. I can’t remember the last time I saw a WILL linebacker being Canadian. For him to be able to do that speaks to his abilities, his athleticism and his smarts.
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