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Cates has some unfinished football business to tend to

He understands it's all part of the game of professional football, but Wes Cates wasn't really wanting to be traded to the Toronto Argonauts.
Wes Cates

He understands it's all part of the game of professional football, but Wes Cates wasn't really wanting to be traded to the Toronto Argonauts. He's come to appreciate being a Saskatchewan Roughrider although he readily admits that when he was traded to the 'Riders after a brief tour with the Calgary Stampeders, four years ago, he thought he was going "to the middle of nowhere."

He found out soon enough that the supposed middle of nowhere was right smack dab in the centre of the Canadian Football League's universe.

Heading into his fifth season with the Roughriders, and coming off a season that had been shortened by injuries, Cates is 100 per cent healthy and ready to roll.

Cates has embraced the Saskatchewan lifestyle so much that he has even spent the past two off-seasons in Regina, working on promotional activities for the team and educational messages for schools instead of heading home to Columbus, Ohio.

Asked what he liked about the Roughriders' offensive playbook, Cates said he liked the balanced attack concept. He noted that in the CFL, a good running attack opens up the opportunities for the passing game and since he gets involved in both those scenarios, he likes the options the 'Rider book gives him as a featured tailback who can take a handoff and seek the hole in the line or scoot off into the flat as a second or third receiver option.

Asked who he preferred to run behind on the 'Riders starting offensive line, and the affable Cates simply smiled and noted that "Geno (Gene Makowsky) is one of the best at moving people around. He's probably the most solid offensive lineman we've got right now. But we have some young guys like Belton Johnson and Wayne Smith who are pretty anxious to do some damage too, so I like our chances this year."

On the quarterback front, Cates is quite aware of the fact that his team might be heading into camp with only one experienced veteran, Darian Durant, to call plays, but he also states that back-up Cole Berquist has looked pretty good at times and "don't forget we have Marcus Crandall as a quarterbacks coach and he's a pretty cerebial guy. We've been teammates before, now I have to take directions from him," he said with a laugh. "But he knows the game so well. But ya, I know we gotta get somebody lined up as a second quarterback."

Cates said he felt that Prechae Rodriquez might well be a strong replacement for the steady and sometimes spectacular Matt Dominguez at one of the receiver spots and with other returning pass catchers in the fold, the situation looks solid on offence, once that quarterback situation gets settled.

On the defensive side of the ball, Cates said a lot of fans are still lamenting the fact that the two effective rush ends, John Chick and Steve Baggs have moved on to challenge for NFL jobs, but "that's the way this game goes. I think Luc Mullinder will step in and help solidify that situation."

Cates admitted later he was nervous a few months back. He was a free agent and hadn't received a contract offer from the team and then the rumours began to swirl about a proposed trade with the Argos that would include him.

"But now I'm signed and I'll say that the past few years have been the best years of my football life here in Saskatchewan, and I come from a football town," he said.

"When I first heard about being traded from Calgary to here, I admit I was a bummed out, but I discovered that I wasn't in the middle of nowhere, I was in the middle of a terrific football team and province."

Cates said he's still trying to get used to being treated almost like a celebrity when he visits cities like Estevan and in various schools. In fact this was his fourth trip to the Energy City, having been engaged in a variety of tasks on previous visits.

"I like coming here, and if they don't mind having me, I'll keep coming," he said with a grin.

Cates said coming from the United States where "we don't mix the races and cultures so well, we kinda stick with each other," he loved to experience the mixing and mingling of the cultures like he was experiencing in Estevan during the Collage Cultural Festival which he, along with members of the Rooughriders cheerleader/dance team became a part of on Saturday afternoon. "Here in Canada, we mix and I wouldn't change that for the world. Sure I miss my family back home, but I also love playing football for you because you make is easier for us to play the games. And if you approach us as individuals on occasion and maybe catch us on a bad day we apologize. We know how important our fans are," he said.

During his career with the Roughriders, Cates has scored eight rushing touchdowns and five more through the pass. He has caught 138 passes for 1,525 yards and carried the ball 564 times for 2,027 yards. In the injury shortened year last year, he carried 195 times for 932 yards. He's out to make it a 1,000 yard plus season in the rushing department this year.