It may be hard to compare being a firefighter to lining up as a defensive back in the CFL, but Jamar Wall can see the parallels.
“There’s a ton of correlations,” said the veteran defensive back who recently resigned with the Calgary Stampeders. “Being able to work well with others, being aware of your situation, being able to predict (situations), having to be in good shape.
“I’ve been told that they (fire departments) like athletes for that reason, because there are so many similarities between the two jobs.”
Wall is among the CFL players who has participated in the Training Division Fire Academy which offers level one and two firefighting training. The program is part of the CFLPA Career Training Academy initiative to help players with their post football career.
“It was hard,” said the 33-year-old native of Lubbock, Tex., who now makes Calgary his year-round home. “I gained a whole new respect for fire and firefighting.
“The power (fire) has and the heat that it gives off. Just seeing these guys put their lives at risk multiple times for people. You’re running into something when others are running out.”
Having Wall return for his ninth season brings some stability to a Stampeder secondary that has already lost Brandon Smith to retirement plus Tre Roberson and DaShaun Amos to the NFL. Also gone is DB’s coach Josh Bell.
Raheem Wilson, who had 36 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble in his first season as a Stampeder, is returning. The team also signed Royce Metchie, who had 48 tackles and three interceptions last year, to an extension earlier this week.
There sometimes can be glitches when new parts are added to a finely-tuned defence. All the players have the talent, but it can take time before they establish the needed communication on the field.
“With a new group of players it takes time,” said Wall. “It’s going to take a good three to four games for guys to get comfortable. That’s what usually separates the good (defences) from the bad, that harmony.
“When you are at the point I like to call being in the matrix, you can just kind of do things without having to speak. When you are at that comfort level with your teammates, you are a scary group. I feel like our staff does a good job of getting those type of guys in.”
Back in 2018 Wall made the move to SAM position from the field half. He admits the transition wasn’t always easy.
“It was interesting,” he said. “I kind of wanted to play it earlier in my career, but I was pretty well established at the field half and was really enjoying it.
“It kind of challenged me in a different way. My mindset had to change a little bit, your eyes are a little different. My first year wasn’t so great. Last year I felt I got pretty comfortable with it.”
In his first season at the SAM, Wall had a career low 36 tackles. He rebounded in 2019 to finished fourth on the Stamps with 67 tackles in 16 games, plus a sack and a knockdown.
“It’s a different view,” he said. “At the field half, it gives you another three to four yards of being able to see the big picture. Seeing the entire formation helps you. Now I’m in tighter. I don’t see what a couple of those receivers are doing.
“I have to really trust my guys and it took some time to earn that trust. Not by anything they were particularity doing, it was just me being in a new position. Once you start to do that, you start to play more relaxed.”
Wall played his college football at Texas Tech University and was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL draft. He bounced around with Houston and Philadelphia and even played in the Arena Football League, before signing with Calgary in June of 2012.
Wall has appeared in 128 regular-season games with the Stampeders, eight playoffs and won two of the four Grey Cups he’s played in.
He had recorded 411 defensive tackles, nine tackles for a loss and six special-teams tackles. He has made 48 knockdowns and 18 interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns. There’s also been five forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown) and four sacks.
Wall is a two-time CFL all-star and was named to the league’s all-decade team for 2010-2019.
When it came to a new deal, Wall didn’t hesitate.
“I’m definitely happy being a Stampeder,” he said. “I’m established here, I have a family and I live here full time. This is definitely somewhere I wanted to be.”
The CFL was forced to cancel the 2020 season due to the coronavirus. The league hopes to begin the 2021 campaign on June 10 and award the Grey Cup Nov. 21 at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton.
Wall believes the year off will prove beneficial to him. He changed his diet and worked hard at staying in shape.
“I can honestly say I’m in the best shape I’ve been in a long time,” he said. “I feel healthier than ever.”
Looking into the future, firefighting is one option for when his football career is over.
“I would like to do some coaching as well,” said Wall. “I like to have a couple of doors open.
“We’ll just kind of see. The firefighting stuff, I was just trying to be smart and proactive.”
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