Sundays sacred to Cahoon

Courtesy Montreal Gazette:

When the Alouettes won the Grey Cup, in 2002, Ben Cahoon celebrated by drinking cherry Gatorade out of the chalice; alcohol never having graced his lips.

He has never tasted coffee, either – nor has he had a craving for caffeine – although admitting, when he’s tired, he believes he might be missing that adrenaline rush. And when he was a teenager, and all those other hellcats were going around the corner during their lunch breaks to smoke, he never thought that to be an appealing option.

But perhaps nothing is of more distress to the veteran slotback than Sunday football. The Als play the second of four Sunday home games tomorrow (1 p.m., TSN, RDS) when they entertain the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Molson Stadium.

Cahoon’s consternation has nothing to do with having caught only one pass in each of Montreal’s last two games. Cahoon is a Mormon – one of a handful of players scattered throughout the Canadian Football League, including Als offensive-tackle Jeff Perrett – and believes Sunday should not only be a day of rest, but also a day of worship.

Attempting to build on the Als’ 8-2 record, while adding to his Hall of Fame statistics, means Cahoon won’t be able to attend services at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Cahoon estimates he makes it to the Kirkland temple, located on Hymus Blvd., only about 50 per cent of the time during the season.

Indeed, when head coach Marc Trestman gives his players their monthly schedule, Cahoon immediately seeks the number of Sundays the team has off.

“Truth be told, that’s the thing I hate most about this job,” the 12-year veteran said during an interview this week. “Sunday is a special, sacred day. I don’t think you should work on Sunday, if you can prevent it. It should be a day of rest – a day which is different from every day of the week. I feel guilty when I don’t go to church and have to work. I justify it by saying it’s my job and I’m providing for my family.

“It should be a day you rest from the cares and worries of the world. I really enjoy attending church. It recharges my batteries and allows me to get refocused on the important things. And I enjoy the people. I need that.”

Cahoon’s religion isn’t the soapbox from which he preaches. Those who follow the team and league have learned of his faith, but he

only discusses the issue when prompted. Similarly, it appears nothing more than coincidence he and Perrett room together – paired only recently – on Als’ road trips; religion, according to Perrett, never discussed in the privacy of their room.

And yet, before tomorrow’s kickoff, Cahoon will probably venture over to Bombers receiver Brock Ralph – a fellow Mormon – to exchange pleasantries. They share a common bond, Cahoon said, so he follows their careers and quietly roots for them to succeed.

“There is a difference being Mormon,” Cahoon said. “It’s a special thing. It makes me who I am and makes me different. It provides me with a different perspective and standards I set for myself.”

But those standards, it should be noted, don’t prevent Cahoon from augmenting his income and lifestyle wherever possible. Much like his battery-mate, quarterback Anthony Calvillo, Cahoon has become a spokesperson for a Montreal-based auto dealership. If shilling for a company – in this case Volvo Pointe Claire – somehow seems unlike Cahoon, he suddenly grows obstinate, making it clear he’s doing nothing untoward. Indeed, his sponsorship deal, established three years ago, was borne out of necessity.

In an attempt to save money, Cahoon transported his car to Montreal one season – at a cost of more than $3,500 – from his home in Utah. At the end of the season, the car was shipped back, arriving three weeks late and, he claimed, broken. And then, over a five-year span, the family rented a mini-van during the season, “wasting thousands,” he said.

Realizing the family – Cahoon is the father of four girls – required two vehicles, he decided to start knocking on doors, attempting to get a car deal by any means.

“I begged for a deal at several spots,” he said. “Volvo Pointe Claire called back – and they’ve been awesome.”

Cahoon gets the use of a vehicle during the season. In exchange, he records radio commercials for the dealership, wears a hat promoting the company and, slightly more than a week ago, spent hours outside the showroom, signing autographs and posing for pictures during a barbecue for West Island-based minor football organizations.

Cahoon left an indelible impression, as he has since arriving in Montreal in 1998.

“His calm, unassuming, gentle and accommodating personality came through in spades as he mixed and mingled with everyone, signing autographs and posing for pictures; the hamburger he was trying to eat long gone cold,” Susan Farley, one of those in attendance, wrote in an email. “He’s a class act … a genuine role model … a hero. It was an immense pleasure to meet him.”

Bernard Leclerc, the dealership’s general manager, said Cahoon’s request was not the first he has handled; the majority being denied. But Leclerc said he immediately understood there was something different about this unassuming man.

“I was surprised,” Leclerc said. “I expected him, as a football player, to be rough. But he’s a family man, and he fits our team like a glove. He convinced me. He’s a great person, honestly. He gives his time and speaks to everyone. It’s always good to have a good spokesperson – and he’s one of the best in the CFL.”

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