Montreal is a lot different than Hempstead, N.Y., where Alouettes running-back Will Stanback grew up.“Where I’m from, there’s a lot of negativity and things that you pretty much don’t want to be around as in drugs and violence and everything,” said Stanback, who is entering his second CFL season with the Alouettes. “I’m just very appreciative of having the ability to play football to bring me here. I just love the city because just the atmosphere, the people.“I do feel safe walking around in the streets,” the 24-year-old added. “I feel like I don’t have to look over my shoulder like how it was growing up. Just the area and the people that move into Hempstead, it tends to be a little difficult growing up for children. But me having the ability to play football, it brought me to a lot of different places.”Stanback played college football at Virginia Union and the University of Central Florida. The 6-foot, 233-pounder signed with the Green Bay Packers in 2017, but never played a game with the NFL team before he was cut and signed with the Alouettes last May. Friday marked Stanback’s first anniversary of moving to Montreal and he spent the off-season living with his girlfriend Eliane Basque, a real estate agent met here, on Île-Bizard. He recently found a downtown condominium, where he will live this season.
Montreal Alouettes running-back Will Stanback in Montreal on May 7, 2019.
Allen McInnis /
“It was great,” he said. “It was a little different understanding how the snow can make it difficult getting back and forth to workouts and training. But I managed to get through it and do what I had to to prepare for the upcoming season. I just wanted to be closer to the team, I wanted to be in the community. I was doing a program with the Alouettes, Ultimate Football, and we were going around to elementary schools and teaching them the basics of football.”Stanback also got a chance to work on his French with help from his bilingual girlfriend.“I feel like you get to meet more people and a lot of doors open up when you can speak another language,” he said. “I just like the culture, the food here. I feel like I can just be myself, meeting new people. And learning French is something I took on and I really appreciate the people who have been helping me learn the language.”At the top of Stanback’s list of favourite Montreal restaurants is The Keg.“I like to get a rib-eye (steak) with potatoes and whatever,” he said recently during lunch time at The Keg in Place Ville Marie. “I don’t really get the Keg fries and everything … just a caesar salad. I try to get the big boy (steak). A new place that I discovered, well I was put on to, is Scarolies (Pasta Emporium), it’s in the West Island. And I would say Maiko Sushi — I like sushi. I also can’t forget Beni Hana.”Stanback spends much of his leisure time studying film from his games. He also likes to play paintball with teammates and enjoys the mental challenge of escape rooms. He knew very little about Montreal while growing up in Hempstead, but was aware of the CFL.“I used to see it on ESPN and (with) the Alouettes I knew Chad Ochocinco was a receiver here for a year and a half,” he said. “I remember seeing a few games on ESPN and I realized how big the field was and I knew it was totally different from the NFL. (The big field) doesn’t really make a difference to me. The only thing that is kind of odd and frustrating is just the three downs. Because me being a running back, you don’t get the opportunity to run the ball as much if we’re not good in the passing game. We open up the passing game, the running game will be good.”Stanback ran the ball 81 times last season for 539 yards — an impressive average of 6.65 per carry — as the Alouettes missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season with a 5-13 record. The Alouettes open training camp Sunday at Molson Stadium and will kick off the CFL regular season on June 14 in Edmonton.“I’m excited going into the new season,” Stanback said. “We got a bunch of guys who are riled up and ready to go. Everyone has the same mentality in winning. We understand that in the past there were a lot of downfalls and mistakes that led us to losing games. But we feel we’re going to be strong this year.”While still a relatively new face with the Alouettes, Stanback said he was recognized on the streets of Montreal four or five times during the off-season with fans asking for a photo or an autograph.“I’m glad I can do it,” he said. “It’s my pleasure and it’s what I want to do. This is why I wanted to stay in the community. I just want to be a positive role model to people that are looking up to me.”email@example.com/StuCowan1Related