CFL Colts lose recruit to Toronto

March 22, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

The Baltimore CFL Colts lost one of their top recruits to a better business proposition yesterday when free-agent slotback Jeff Fairholm signed with the Toronto Argonauts.

Fairholm opted for the familiarity of home and an off-season job in his father's business over the chance to follow Don Matthews -- his coach with the Saskatchewan Roughriders the past three years -- to Baltimore.

"Until a week and a half ago, I was going to go to Baltimore," Fairholm, 28 and a six-year Canadian Football League veteran, said from Toronto. "I really wanted to play there."

Then fate, and the Argos, intervened with an offer. The chance to

live in the same city with his family, and work for his father's facilities management company, proved decisive for Fairholm, who grew up there.

"The business opportunity here is hard to pass up," he said. "It's time to look for a long-term career."

Fairholm, with 53 career touchdowns, has had three straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Last year he ranked third in the CFL with 1,391 yards.

The Colts announced four more signings yesterday and remain in the hunt for two of the league's best defensive players, both free agents.

Nose tackle Jearld Baylis, defensive player of the year for Saskatchewan last season, said last week that negotiations with the Colts are "in the home stretch."

Pass-rushing linebacker O. J. Brigance, meanwhile, who was second in the CFL with 20 sacks last year, says it's Baltimore or the Lions, for whom he played in 1993.

Like Fairholm, both Baylis and Brigance are trying to position themselves for off-season jobs. "We aren't out making a huge financial gain like in the NFL," Brigance said. "Finances are definitely a part of it, but the off-season side is very important, too."

Yesterday's signings included:

* Cornerback Wayne Williams of LSU, who has been on the practice squads with the New York Jets and Saskatchewan the past two years.

* Free safety Jerry Woods of Northern Michigan, who has played with the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers in the NFL, and the Birmingham Fire in the World League. He is considered an excellent hitter.

* Slotback Clayton Driver, who had 88 career catches and 17 touchdowns at East Carolina.

* Punter Jackie Smith, who averaged better than 44 yards a kick at Clark Atlanta University and was the starting quarterback as well.

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