When the BC Lions take to the grid-iron this season, they will undoubtedly look very different thanks to the absence of just one player, that being Geroy Simon. However, wide receiver Marco Iannuzzi tells us the leadership gap on this team isn’t as wide as many might think.
Iannuzzi is entering his third season as a Leo and should see full-time minutes with the aforementioned absence a stark reality. Iannuzzi had five touchdowns and 353 yards on 30 receptions, all career highs, last season and says his mindset is to get better each and every day.
Marco isn’t from British Columbia though. He’s a Calgary boy, born May 21st, 1987 and so it begs the question, was he a Stamps fan growing up? Of course he was.
“We had two season tickets that were sort of passed around the family growing up. So I was fortunate enough to get to three or four games every year,” says Iannuzzi.
That childhood relationship took a major hit when Calgary passed up Iannuzzi in the 2011 CFL Draft. Calgary had traded up with BC handing over their Number 6 pick for BC’s Number 3. Marco was then drafted by the Lions and hasn’t looked back.
“I think the weird factor went away the second the Stamps passed me up in the draft and I was happy to come over to BC. The organization has been great to me. Coming out here, my wife and I were laughing that we used to vacation in BC growing up and now we get to live year round where we vacation so we can’t complain there.
Secondly and like I said, the organization was great to me the whole time leading up to the draft. The Lions were perfectly straight with me and what they said would happen ended up happening. I can’t say the same for Calgary so we’re happy to be in BC.”
That draft swap is one Lions fans and management can look back on and be pretty happy with. Calgary took Vancouver, BC native and Calgary Dino Wide Receiver Anthony Parker 3rd overall. In 2012, Parker didn’t put up a single yard for Calgary.
Iannuzzi has put himself in a pretty good spot mentally heading into 2013 having just signed a shiny three year extension with BC. However, the last several weeks haven’t been the easiest because Marco once played four years of college ball at Harvard and also attended MIT, the site of a fatal shooting just days after the Boston Bombings.
“I was there for four years of my life.
I used to be a real estate agent and rented many units along Boylston Street. So just seeing the images, it hit very, very close to home. Fortunately, I contacted most everyone I know that’s still in the area and I don’t think anyone was injured.
I did see many pictures from friends on social media who were having searches done on their houses and I thought that was pretty scary and traumatic.
Though no one [I know] was physically hurt, psychologically there’s a ton going on there and it’s a shame to see.”
On the bombings putting football into perspective, Marco says, “Sure, that puts everything into perspective, let alone football.”
Back to the topic of football where not just Iannuzzi, but all of his team-mates got in some early prep for the 2013 season. The organization held a mini-camp in the middle of April which Iannuzzi says, “was great and specifically because we had a couple new receivers out there. To get them into the playbook early and for the guys that have been around and may already be familiar with the stuff, we have new additions and wording and language to learn.
Even though we only got three days in, we still have the next six weeks to think about those things so I think we’ll be coming into camp a full week ahead of where we’d be had we not had the mini camp.”
A couple of those new guys are Portland, Oregon born Elvis Akpla and Catawba, North Carolina native Justin Harper. The 24 year old Akpla is a complete newbie in the CFL having signed as a free agent with BC this past April. Harper on the other hand was coast-bound when Geroy traded in his orange kicks for a green Superman logo.
Harper had 95 yards on 9 receptions with 0 TD’s for the Riders last season.
Marco, being the grizzled veteran that he is, thinks they’ll be fine but has some modest advice.
“They’ve played in pro organizations before but like I said, the BC Lions have been very fair to me from the business end of things and opportunity-wise. You’ve just got to keep doing your thing and prepare yourself for training camp because training camp is only so long and you have to prove yourself somewhere along the way.”
If guys like Akpla and Harper can perform well at main camp in a couple weeks, perhaps the loss of Arland Bruce and Geroy Simon to other CFL foes won’t be such a big deal. Iannuzzi is confident in his squad’s current state of leadership.
“We have great leadership here but yes it’s tough to see the greatest of all time go because you can’t replace him. But as far as the leadership gap goes, we have Paris Jackson still around and he’s become more vocal; actually he’s always been a vocal guy. Now we have the opportunity to step up for young guys or guys that have already been in a leadership role like Travis [Lulay] and Angus [Reid].
Iannuzzi continues, “It’s tough to see him [Geroy] leave but I understand what happened and why he did it so no hard feelings. We’re moving forward like our organization is now.
If you look at last year, specifically the last half a dozen games, we played without Arland [Bruce] and Geroy for the bulk of those games so to say we’re all new, fresh faces isn’t really an accurate statement and I think we’ve proven that we can play and we’ve shown what we’ve got on the field.”
Does this mean Marco, an Investment Advisor with RBC Dominion Securities, has changed his game at all? Nope.
“I’ve kept my game the same my whole life and it’s not a matter of thinking I’m good enough. It’s about getting better. I stick to how I’m training and believe in it and that’s done me well for the past 20 years so I’ll continue to do it as I progress in my career.”
Marco LITERALLY laughed out loud when we asked him who he hates more, Ivy League rival Yale or CFL foe Saskatchewan.
“Definitely Yale. That rivalry has been going for 130-some odd years so it’s in my bones a little more.”
The first meeting between Yale and Harvard occurred on November 13, 1875 and Yale leads the all-time series Yale leads 65–56–8.
Is there one defensive player in the CFL Marco hates going up against?
“I don’t hate or avoid going up against anyone,” boasts Marco. “It’s the joy of competition and each week you prepare. Obviously each week you prepare for specific opponents but I don’t dread anyone.”
This interview may or may not have happened if it weren’t for Twitter so we asked Marco what draws him to social media, Twitter in particular.
“I love Twitter because I’m able to talk to the fans. They really show a lot of support and obviously you can’t go out and have an individual conversation with every single fan but Twitter allows a lot of them, if they have something to say, to say it. You can see what they’re thinking, reach out to them and thank them for their support.
It’s been great this past off-season hearing the support.
You know, there are comments from time to time about what their concerns are and how the media interplays with that, you just get a better feel for what’s going on in the league.”
We’re talking to Marco Iannuzzi here, a guy that hoisted the Grey Cup in his very first CFL season. If you’re wondering, yes he did play in the Grey Cup victory over Winnipeg and the West Final before that. On hoisting the Grey Cup, Iannuzzi says, “It’s fantastic. It’s one of those feelings you want to have happen again so you do everything you can to make it happen.
When you’re actually sitting their hoisting it, it doesn’t sink in but as a year passed and now two years, I realize I was fortunate enough to hold my whole childhood dreams above my head and it’s definitely a feeling I’m striving to achieve once more.”
A final message for the fans from Mr. Marco Iannuzzi: “Thank you for the support and we look forward to seeing you up in the crowd this season.”
You can follow Marco Iannuzzi on Twitter @IannuzziMarco.
The CFL pre-season gets underway for BC June 14th, ironically, on the road in Calgary.