Owens helped Drummond get Baltimore look

November 16, 1994|By JOHN STEADMAN

There was no need for a formal introduction. Jim Popp, the personnel director of the Baltimore franchise in the Canadian Football League, knew the background of Robert Drummond and when the inquiry came his reaction was:

"Sure, have him come in for a workout. No promises. We'll take a look."

It was Brig Owens, a former Washington Redskin, who called Popp to intercede on behalf of Drummond. They were friends, Owens and Drummond, but Popp was especially receptive because he knew all about Drummond -- except he was out of football and couldn't understand why.

Drummond, a former standout at Syracuse, had been a third-round draft choice of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1989 and made the squad as a rookie. The next season, after four games, he broke his hand.

The Eagles released Drummond in 1991, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed him for the next year but, again, he was terminated. Last season he was in the Denver Broncos' camp but was placed on waivers in the final cutdown.

"I had watched Robert with the Steelers," Popp explained. "He was playing the exact position as Dwight Stone and I knew he wouldn't make their club. Another back, Mike Saunders of Iowa, also was there.

"They couldn't beat out Stone. No chance. But they were similar. We signed Saunders when I was with Don Matthews, then coaching at Saskatchewan, in 1992. He has been a standout. Now we're in Baltimore and so is Drummond."

When he showed up for the CFL trial, long after the season had started, Popp took him to Johns Hopkins University's Homewood Field for a light workout. "He ran some sprints, then a few pass routes," Popp recalled. "I threw him the ball. He caught it well. He was in good running shape, but not football condition."

Popp told Drummond to follow him back to Memorial Stadium. They talked. The salary would be modest (the guess is between $30,000 and $40,000) but all Drummond wanted was the chance.

"Right away, I told Don Matthews I was impressed and we ought to sign him," Popp related. "Don said do it. Robert had missed all of training camp but has a great attitude. A gentleman in every way, polite, just a super fellow, and he's a football player."

Drummond is just what the CFL likes, a combination player who can run out of the backfield or play as a slot receiver. An upright runner, he's strong, with a slashing style, difficult to tackle and in the playoff with the Toronto Argonauts scored two touchdowns, had two others called back and gained over 100 yards. Not bad for a pickup.

Drummond flattened two tacklers with a powerful stiff arm, a weapon not too many running backs bother to use any more. He lifted the pressure off the offense because of the injury to Mike Pringle.

After Robert's first score, the ball he was carrying rolled out of the end zone, but Drummond went after it as if there was a bounty on it. What he wanted was to bring it to the sidelines and take it home as a CFL keepsake.

Yesterday, before Popp related the specifics in the Drummond acquisition, he was already working on next year. He checked out three candidates, who had earlier been in a mini-camp of the new Carolina Panthers of the NFL.

Popp insists players want to come to Baltimore. "Something special has been created," he says. "It's because of the type city this is, a winning team, the players we have, the kind of coach and owner. The word has gotten around. Baltimore is the place to be."

The scouting efforts of young Popp, only 29, have been instrumental in helping to bring about the unprecedented success of an expansion team. A case history in point: Robert Drummond.

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