Monday, May 27, 2024

On Mothers Day, Ottawa Redblacks receiver Jaelon Acklin is thankful

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On a day to celebrate the impact mothers have made in our lives, Ottawa Redblacks receiver Jaelon Acklin had two special women on his mind.

On a day where we say, “I love you” to those that often matter the most, Acklin had a couple of I love yous of his own: His mom Tina and his girlfriend Aynsley, who gave birth to the couple’s first child, Poppy, a daughter, a week ago.

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Let’s start with Tina, a single mother who Acklin said is the reason he’s a professional football player. A free spirit, Acklin could have gone in a lot of different directions when he was younger, but his mom kept him in line, delivering her own brand of tough love.

When Acklin says the wrong things on social media, when he doesn’t perform the way he’s expected to on the football field, Tina is on him to be better.

“She means everything to me,” said Acklin Sunday following the Redblacks’ first day of training camp. “She’s always kept me grounded. I was a handful. I wasn’t in trouble, but I was just seeing how far I could go, pushing the limits. Sometimes I get too high or low in games. Off the field, same thing. She always kept me level, kept my morals good.

“I was third string in my junior year of college. I was going to quit and go home. I called my mom. She said, ‘Jaelon, you have to stick with it, you’ve almost got your degree.’ She never took the easy way out and she didn’t want me taking the easy way out, either. And that’s why I’m here today.”

There was the time he got in trouble and his mom made him drink vinegar as punishment.

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“I was so dramatic, I acted like it was going to kill me,” said Acklin. “She has such a sweet heart, she was like, ‘It’s OK, I love you.’ ”

There was a scare a few years back when Tina, an elementary school counsellor, was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy.

“It was tough,” said Acklin. “Her mom died of colon cancer. So, it was scary. I had three little brothers. I had to grow up fast, learn how to make breakfast for everyone, get them to school.”

Acklin says he’s got plenty of love in his heart for his mom.

And, what does Tina think about him?

Said Acklin with a laugh: “She tells me, ‘You’re an idiot, but I love you,’ ”

And, then there’s the other mother in his life, Aynsley.

The couple met in 2022 when the Redblacks were in Hamilton for a game; she was a server at Moxie’s.

Fast forward to the birth of Poppy, who was seven pounds on delivery.

Acklin was with Aynsley at McMaster Children’s Hospital for 30 hours. Then, he was with her in the delivery room, witnessing the miracle of birth and getting to hold the newborn.

“I remember (Aynsley) asking if I wanted to (watch the birth),” said Acklin. “At first, I said no. But it was the coolest experience in my life.

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“It was stressful (to leave to come to Ottawa). I bawled my eyes out. I look forward to FaceTiming them every day. This is the most responsibility I’ve ever had. I’ve always wanted to be a father, it’s the No. 1 thing I’ve wanted to do.”

Aynsley and Poppy will move to Ottawa after training camp.

SECOND AND LONG: Receiver Bralon Addison didn’t practise Sunday. Said Redblacks coach Bob Dyce: “When you have someone who’s as versatile and talented as Bralon is, we want to make sure when he does get on the field, he’s going to stay on the field. It’s just a little nagging injury with him. When we put him on the field, he’ll be ready to go full speed. It’s nothing related (to past injuries). These guys, as they work out in the off-season, they might get a little nagging injury, a minor thing.” … Asked about Dontae Bull and Zack Pelehos who are battling to be the starting right tackle, Dyce said: “I would say this, they both have to be better than what they have been. We expect them to play at a high level. I have the utmost confidence they will be better as camp moves forward.”

THE END AROUND: Hearing receiver Nick Mardner, Ottawa’s first-round pick(No. 2 overall) in this year’s CFL Draft, did not sign with the New York Giants after a mini camp invite. That could open up the possibility he is in camp with the Redblacks in the near future … Punter Richie Leone has been put on the suspended list. No further details, but the team expects he will be in camp and ready to go soon … Kicker Michael Domagala (Carleton) is back with the Redblacks. After joining Ottawa late last season, Domagala played five games in place of injured Lewis Ward, going 8-for-9 in field goals … Ottawa has also signed receiver Mike Harley (Miami), who has spent the past two NFL pre-seasons with the Cleveland Browns.

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