There haven’t been many occasions in Eric Deslauriers’s seven seasons with the Montreal Alouettes when he’s been the centre of media attention.
One was in July 2011 when he was on the receiving end of Anthony Calvillo’s CFL-record 395th career TD pass — a catch at the back of the end zone that needed a video review to confirm he stayed in bounds.
Another came last week when Deslauriers hauled in a dramatic 57-yard desperation toss from rookie Tanner Marsh with a second remaining against the B.C. Lions. The catch set up Sean Whyte’s 15-yard field goal on the final play for a stunning 39-38 victory.
“It’s definitely my biggest catch and biggest game of my career,” the 32-year-old Deslauriers said Tuesday.
It capped a night in which he set career highs in catches (four) and receiving yards (101). On Tuesday, the native of Gatineau, Que. , was named the CFL’s Canadian player of the week.
Deslauriers doesn’t get many chances to shine. When he gets in a game it’s usually as the wide-side receiver, a spot quarterbacks shun because it means throwing all the way across the field.
But with a rash of injuries Deslauriers was playing closer to the middle in the spot usually held by Jamel Richardson, one of Calvillo’s favourite targets.
And with Calvillo out with a concussion, Montreal had to use its backup quarterbacks — the ones Deslauriers works most with in practice. Josh Neiswander started before being replaced by Marsh in the first half.
“Me and Marsh play a lot of practice roster, so we know each other pretty well,” said Deslauriers. “We’ve been a good hook-up since camp.”
Or, as coach Jim Popp put it: “A backup is not going to be afraid to throw it to the starters and he’ll be even less afraid to throw it to the guys he warms up with all the time.”
Calvillo remains a question mark for the Alouettes’ game Tuesday in Toronto. Popp said if the 41-year-old doesn’t resume practising by Friday, he will likely sit out a second straight week.
If Calvillo doesn’t play, Marsh will almost certainly make his first CFL start.
The 23-year-old Texan has been the talk of the town since coming off the bench to pull out the win over B.C. He completed only 14-of-32 passes with four interceptions and also fumbled twice.
But he also ran nine times for 71 yards and finished with 329 passing yards, averaging 23.5 yards per completion. Veteran Arland Bruce had seven catches for 167 yards.
“He really took it on his shoulders and got the job done,” Deslauriers said of Marsh. “I know it wasn’t pretty.
“I know you can’t win on Hail Marys every freaking game, but it feels great. We really needed that. And hopefully it can get a fire going underneath us for the rest of the season.”
The pass that stood out was the last-gasp toss to Deslauriers that helped Montreal (3-5) win for only the second time in a six-game span.
“I knew I was getting the ball on that play,” said Deslauriers. “The O-line was good enough to protect for about 25 seconds and Marsh threw it up about 80 yards.
“I turned into a photographer. I was just looking at it. It was such a pretty ball.”
Marsh was looking for Deslauriers.
“We moved everyone to the boundary,” said Marsh. “We crossed them up.
“He was one-on-one and I threw it. He made an amazing catch. He’s a freak of an athlete. If he’s one-on-one, I’m throwing to him all the time. He’s got that deceptive speed. He’s got those lanky legs and the next thing you know he’s passing people.”
Popp thought he had a 1,000-yard receiver when he drafted Deslauriers seventh overall in 2006 from Eastern Michigan University. But after a promising rookie campaign, Deslauriers has been mainly a second-tier player.
Deslauriers has had injury troubles and then there always seems to be another player ahead of him on the depth chart.
Over seven seasons, he has only 71 catches for 1,015 yards and three touchdowns.
He doesn’t expect that one big game and one huge catch to suddenly make him a featured receiver, however.
“I’m 32 and I’m feeling 25 and hopefully I can produce a little more, but the reality is that, as a professional, you have to learn to play your role,” he said. “I can’t get too high or too low.
“That’s just the reality of playing the professional game.”
The Alouettes are on a 12-day break between games, followed by consecutive meetings with the first-place Argonauts in a five-day span.