Even though they improved to 2-0 on the young season after beating the Edmonton Elks last week, the Saskatchewan Roughriders certainly left Commonwealth Stadium with a dark cloud hanging over them as they lost one of their key pieces on and off the field to a nasty leg injury.
Any recommendations for the softest sponges for a sponge bath? pic.twitter.com/Om6WRIOUcQ— Dan Clark (@DanClark67) June 20, 2022
What is the team's answer after losing veteran centre Dan Clark entering Week 3 against Montreal?
Interior offensive linemen Logan Ferland and Evan Johnson will be flanking a new middle man on the line tonight as Logan Bandy will be starting at centre in place of the injured Clark. The 23 year old Bandy has been dressed as the team's extra offensive lineman this year after he had an impressive training camp following his final year of eligibility with the University of Calgary.
A strong start to the year from each of the teams offensive tackles in Terran Vaughn and Na'Ty Rodgers has led to the entire group playing confident, something they were hoping to foster among their positional peers from the very beginning. The friendship (and near brotherhood) between Ferland and the injured Dan Clark has been something well documented over their entire time together wearing green and white.
"Last year was my first year really fully hanging out with the guy. Like I'm sure he said we are best buds now, and we keep each other driven and motivated throughout the year," said Ferland on the team captain Clark in a previous interview, "I think it's going to build even more this year, and hopefully it extends through the rest of the offensive line room and we can really create a brotherhood in there."
Losing his partner in crime Clark changes things up a bit for Ferland, who should be looking forward to stepping up after putting in a tremendous amount of work during the offseason.
"For me personally, I'm just feeling very confident after having a year under my belt," he said, "I know exactly what I need to do, and exactly the things I need to focus on to be dominant in this league."
Finishing last season as the Roughriders leader in downs played surely helped with Ferland's quick jump in development. He got all of the experience he could have as a rookie in the league, and is now back doing his job once again in year two with a chance to again step up and be a main factor on the offensive line as their longtime leader Clark recovers.
"Now I'm just dialed in with the new contract, focused hard on the things I needed to during the offseason, and in the playbook. That's another thing, a year already under Maas's system and now this year is going to be that much easier and faster after knowing the system for a year," said Ferland.
West Central Online has been eagerly watching Ferland's growth with the Riders, and we actually got the amazing opportunity to speak with Dan Clark himself before the season about what the young player brings to the table.
Both have made a name for themselves after taking the CJFL route as members of the Regina Thunder, as aside from trash talking abilities, a lot of parallels exist between the two former junior football standouts.
Not only have these connections led Clark to call himself one of Ferland's friends, he is also one of his biggest supporters.
"It's nice to have him in our club. He's a true shining example of what it is to be a Saskatchewan Roughrider, and be from this province," said Clark, sending high praise his teammates way, "His hard work and dedication is second to none, and I don't think he's just destined to be in the CFL. I think he's got bigger and better things in his mind."
Clark has used his newfound relationship with Ferland as a self-motivator of sorts as well, showing up everyday with the extra incentive to keep his career going thanks to the young kid next to him. It will be a little tougher now thanks to the injury, but training with Ferland this offseason and growing their bond even more has resulted in a new goal for Clark as a football player.
"I said to him this offseason, 'I think my new goal is to outlast you'. He laughed, and I said 'I'm glad you don't think I'm serious. We'll see what happens'."
That extra incentive is just what a gritty player like Clark needs.
"I wouldn't be the player I am today, last year, without Logan pushing me. Having a young guy on your tail I walk into the building expecting to be cut every single day, thinking, 'What work have I put in today to stick around?' It's definitely nice to have that young man pushing me everyday."
Their friendship is well documented on the field, but a look behind the scenes off the field gives a more wholesome view. Ferland has made it a postgame tradition of his while at Mosaic Stadium to say hello to Clark's family sitting first row behind the Riders bench, and Clark has been more than happy to meet up with the family of Ferland's as well.
Having a close teammate like Ferland stick around in the offseason was amazing according to Clark as they shared being parts of the family. It's always great to have willing participants for an extended family game night.
"I became really good friends with Ryan and Sara (Ferland), which is awesome. Not many times unless you are local you get to know many peoples families very well, but it's always really nice to be able to do that. It's nice that you can just call up on a Friday night and have games at the house."
Clark shared that Ferland is already an honorary uncle in his household as the young ones never miss a chance to say hello, and Ferland appreciates everything that the relationship provides for the duo on and off the field.
"It's hard to find guys to work out with that have the same mindset," shared Ferland, "He's got his family so he's pretty busy all the time, but still just to be able to have that shoulder to lean on, and vice-versa for him, is just huge."
After playing the final game of the regular season at centre last year there was a chance Ferland could slide in and replace Clark, but regardless of his role, he along with the rest of the unit are just focused on filling the big hole that Clark's absence has created on the line.
The severity of his injury means Clark has a long road back to being healthy enough to play football, but his competitive nature will no doubt drive him towards his likely goal of playing again. The longtime Roughrider still knows what he has left in the tank, but is likely more than excited to see what teammates can do in the short term he is gone. This opportunity could be a great one for Ferland to show out specifically.
"He's a pretty special young man. I don't think he's meant to stay in our building. I think he's got promising size to go to the NFL which is going to be something great for him," Clark praised Ferland, "He's going to get his rewards when they come, and he's going to be a pillar for not only the Roughriders, but this community if he does decide to stay here."
Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo was asked during a post practice interview earlier this week about the possibility of veteran Roughrider Brendon LaBatte coming back to the team to help fill the major gap caused by Clark's injury. They are currently undefeated and looking good to start the year, but Saskatchewan could certainly use all the help they can get this season as they attempt to make the Grey Cup in Regina at Mosaic Stadium on November 20th, 2022.