It might be easy to forgive Kevin Eakin if he is feeling like the forgotten man these days.
Just don't expect him to take a backseat to the Tabbies highly coveted star quarterback Jason Maas.
Indeed Eakin took advantage of the chance to make his presence known yesterday, accepting a CFL invitation to throw to prospects at a league evaluation camp taking place in Oakville. It was just a quick trip. Eakin was adamant he had to fly out last night to be back at his parents Huntsville, Alabama home for the 21st birthday of his younger sister.
"My mindset is definitely competing for the (starter's) job. My mindset will always be the same, that every day I'm competing to be the number one," Eakin said this week.
Having said that, Eakin didn't just fall off the Alabama turnip truck on his way to Oakville yesterday. He knows the Cats paid a dear price for Maas, who will earn starter's pay. While Eakin, third-stringer Jon Beutjer and whoever the Cats sign for the fourth pivot job for training camp will battle, he has to know the starter's job all but has Maas' name stamped on it.
"I hope it's 50-50," he said of the training camp reps. "But if it's not, I understand. But that will be my mindset. I don't know how guys can do it another way or be satisfied being a number two. I'm never going to prepare myself to be a number two."
He certainly didn't look like a number two late last season. For those who might've forgotten, Eakin is the 24-year-old Fordham-product who emerged as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats long-awaited heir apparent to eight-year Cat quarterback starter Danny McManus.
And by all accounts, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound passer showed well, completing 44 of 74 tosses (59.5 per cent) for four majors and two interceptions and a 2-1 record in three starts.
Not too shabby for a scrappy, young pivot who had started 2005 as the starting gunner for the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe before being a late cut out of the New York Jets camp. Eakin's only prior Canadian experience was a trip to Niagara Falls he took with his parents and three younger siblings as a kid.
Eakin showed he was a quick learner.
But all expectations that the young gunslinger would lead the Tabbies in 2006 vanished the first week of December when club GM Rob Katz pulled the trigger on one of the most publicly expected trades in CFL history, extracting blue-chip veteran passer Jason Maas from the Edmonton Eskimos in exchange for Danny McManus, Tim Bakker and the Cats' top pick in the April 20 Canadian College Draft.
All of a sudden Eakin was relegated to backup status in almost everyone's mind but his own.
Don't get him wrong. Eakin met Maas this off-season, spoke to him on three occasions and likes him, actually sees a lot of himself in the CFL veteran. And he thinks Maas is a terrific acquisition for the club.
"I think we do have the same personalities. He being a veteran of the league he may be a little more outspoken than I would but at the same time we're both fierce competitors.
"I think he sees it the same way as I do. Whatever needs to get done to get done ,we'll do. He wants the same things for this team as I do," Eakin said.
Indeed Maas and Eakin are both fiery leaders, neither one afraid to get in the face of teammates to get the message through. Indeed Tabbie coaches were impressed with Eakin when they watched him grab the face mask of a Frankfurt teammate for a not too subtle chat. Eakin remembers the incident.
"There was a wide receiver over in Europe and I don't even remember what he did but I know he needed it. He ended up having a great game for us. Sometimes it needs to happen," he said of the face mask grab.
Eakin admits he is 'fired up' about the start of training camp less than two months away. And he promises Ticat fans they will see a different Eakin, one who will have the benefit of a full training camp with his new employer.
"I'm going to have a clue what I'm doing, that's number one. I'm going to be much more confident. I like to have fun when I play. I think I had fun last year just not nearly as much fun as I wanted to have because I didn't know what in the world I was doing. So at the very least I'm going to know what I'm doing and what I'm suppose to do, which is way different from last year."