Acquired by Stampeders
March 28, 2002
A football player who was nearly forced out of the game because he has multiple sclerosis has been acquired by the defending Grey Cup champion Calgary Stampeders.
Michel Dupuis, a 225-pound linebacker and long-snapper, was picked up in a trade yesterday with Toronto that saw the Argonauts receive the rights to quarterback Michael Bishop, a former Heisman Trophy finalist.
Dupuis played eight games for Toronto last season, finishing third on the club in special-teams tackles. But his largest accomplishment, perhaps, was being able to play at all.
A Vanier Cup-winner with the University of Ottawa Gee Gees in his amateur days, Dupuis was released by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in training camp last June because he has multiple sclerosis -- a disease the team knew about when it invited him to camp.
Even though experts said it would not affect his play, the affable player from the Montreal area could not find work until the Argonauts signed him on the eve of the regular season.
"I'm grateful to Toronto for picking me up, but I think I showed I can play in this league," Dupuis said yesterday. "I'm training hard right now to stay in shape and make sure that I'll be fine to go down [to Calgary] and have a great year."
Multiple sclerosis is a disease that attacks the central nervous system. It usually strikes people in the prime of their lives -- between the ages of 20 and 40.
It causes scars or lesions to form on the nerve coatings throughout the body, disrupting messages sent from the brain.
MS is not fatal, but it can cause problems with vision, numbness, loss of balance, extreme fatigue and, in some cases, paralysis.
Dupuis has not exhibited any symptoms of the disease since he was diagnosed more than two years ago.
"I have no symptoms at all," he said. "Everything's fine."
Dupuis is spending his off-season working as a youth counsellor in the Ottawa area, and is busy preparing for his second season in professional football.
"He's proven to a lot of people that it's not a handicap, it's merely an illness," said Gee-Gees defensive co-ordinator Danny Laramee, who helps Dupuis with strength and conditioning.
"It's something he's more than capable of dealing with."
After Dupuis was cut by Winnipeg early last summer, Laramee was on the phone with several other clubs in an attempt to land the player another tryout.
"I think the most gratifying thing from the whole story is Michel believed in himself, I believed in Michel, and a lot of people believed in Michel," Laramee said.
"It's nice to know that some other people are now a member of that club."
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