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Lavertu gets guidance from Jones on Calgary Stampeders' offensive line

CALGARY - Pierre Lavertu has an experienced, successful guide on the Calgary Stampeders' offensive line.

Brett Jones was fresh out of university at Calgary's training camp a year ago. The centre from Weyburn, Sask., went on to become the first offensive lineman to be named the Canadian Football League's most outstanding rookie.

The Stampeders hope Lavertu is also a quick study. Calgary swung a draft-day deal with Ottawa to make the Laval athlete the first overall pick May 13.

The 24-year-old from Quebec City played centre for the Rouge et Or, but with Jones so successful at that position in 2013, Lavertu has worked most of the pre-season at guard.

Jones may be two years younger than Lavertu, but he's helping usher the older rookie into professional football.

"He's given me advice and helped me during meetings. He sits behind me," Lavertu said Tuesday at McMahon Stadium.

"Brett is an inspiration for me because he did everything well. He has great technique, good footwork, he knows everything that's happening on the field."

Jon Gott, who was dealt to the expansion Redblacks for the first pick in the draft, and the retired Dimitri Tsoumpas mentored Jones in his first year in the league, so Jones wants to pay it forward.

"They just made sure I was welcomed into the group," Jones said. "We're known as a unit. I just want what's best for the offensive line."

Lavertu, who is six foot three and 298 pounds, won three Vanier Cups and was a three-time CIS all-star with Laval.

He was surprised Calgary drafted him because of Jones, but Lavertu is also excited at the prospect of blocking for star running back Jon Cornish.

"If they want me to play guard, I'm going to play guard," Lavertu said. "It's the opportunity they've given to me. I'm going to take it and do the best I can to be successful at right guard.

"We have Jon Cornish and a lot of good running backs. I love to run-block for him. When you run the ball like that and control the clock like that, you are going to win."

Lavertu played right guard in the first half and returned to centre for the second when Jones came out of Saturday's pre-season win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Calgary rushed for 193 yards in a 23-20 victory.

The Stampeders are in Vancouver to face the Lions in another pre-season game Friday. Calgary hosts Montreal in their regular-season opener June 28.

As Jones did, Lavertu must adapt to the quicker pace of the pro game as well the calibre of the opposition's defensive line.

"There's a lot more things he's responsible for and the talent he's going against every play is equal (to him) or better," Calgary offensive line coach Pat DelMonaco said. "You have to factor in some of them have five, six or seven years of experience."

The six-foot-two, 321-pound Jones says Lavertu makes the same errors he did in his early days as a Stampeder.

"I made a ton of mistakes," Jones said. "You're going to make mistakes and it's just not making the same mistake twice.

"He's doing great. This offence isn't that easy. You can just see he's making those changes and just making those improvements to get better. Whenever he gets a chance to play, I'm excited to play beside him and hope the best for him."

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