When the St. Paul’s Crusaders high school football team kicks off their exhibition schedule on Wednesday, they’ll have a CFLer coaching on the sidelines.
“It’s tough sitting at home watching on TV,” Montreal Alouettes linebacker DJ Lalama said.
It’s been almost three months since Lalama had shoulder surgery after getting injured at Alouettes’ training camp during an intra-squad game.
“Shoulder popped out. Tore everything else around it and here we are,” Lalama said.
With more than a six-month recovery time, the former Manitoba Bison will miss the entire season so he came home to do his rehab.
And if he can’t play, why not coach? Lalama has been brought on to help coach the linebackers at St. Paul’s High School while he heals up.
“This school, both on and off the football field, helped shape me into the man and athlete I am,” Lalama said.
“And if I can kinda shed light on any of those experiences that I’ve had along the way to these kids, hopefully, they’ll be better for it.”
It’s just a week into training camp and Lalama is already making an impact on his former high school team.
“I’d say that’s probably one of the bigger reasons why we are doing so much better defensively this year,” St. Paul’s linebacker Nathan Carabatsakis said. “Just like his knowledge obviously is great for this team, the defence. He’s helping out with the linebackers a lot, just the little things.”
“It’s interesting seeing his growth from the guy I saw every day as a student here,” St. Paul’s head coach Stacy Dainard said.
Lalama has great memories from his time at St. Paul’s including winning the city championship almost a decade ago.
“Without our high school programs, I mean Bisons would have never happened for us and the pros definitely would have never happened,” Lalama said. “So to be able to come back, it’s kinda surreal in a sense to know that seven years ago, this was you.”
And in the years since he left, Lalama has changed both as a player and a person.
“A couple things he said once, and I turned around and looked at him,” Dainard said. “And he said, “I know, I know, I’ve grown up a lot since then,” and he has, he has matured a lot.”
WATCH: DJ Lalama Highlights with Manitoba Bisons
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