September 26, 2018
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Former UMaine football teammates now next-level rivals in CFL

By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — They were teammates at the University of Maine and now they are friendly rivals in the Canadian Football League.

And when receiver Damarr Aultman runs a pass route for the Hamilton Tiger Cats against the Ottawa Redblacks, one of the defensive backs who could be covering him is his friend and former Black Bears teammate Sherrod Baltimore.

“It was a great sight to see … someone I consider a brother of mine on the same field, sharing the same passion,” Aultman said last week at UMaine’s Pro Day. “It’s all love off the field. But, on the field, it’s all business. He knows that and I know that.”

“We beat them two games to one,” chimed in a grinning Baltimore, whose Redblacks won two of the three games between the two.

“We’ll be training together but when the season comes, we’ll be after each other and we’ll talk a little trash,” smiled Baltimore.

Baltimore was chosen the Redblacks’ Rookie of the Year after posting 47 tackles, sixth most on the team. Ottawa went 8-9-1 during the regular season and lost to Saskatchewan 31-20 in the first round of the playoffs.

He played in 14 games and had five or more tackles in five of them including a season- and game-high eight in a 33-32 win over Saskatchewan.

Aultman played seven games for the 6-12 Tiger-Cats, who didn’t make the playoffs. He was used as a kickoff and punt returner in addition to being a wide receiver and slot receiver.

Aultman caught seven passes for 121 yards (17.3 yards per reception) with two touchdowns, returned 22 punts for 223 yards (10.1 yards per return) and 14 kickoffs for 218 yards (15.6 ypr).

Two other former UMaine teammates also played in the CFL.

Linebacker Christophe Mulumba-Tshimanga had 32 tackles and three sacks in 18 games for Edmonton. That included 13 special teams tackles.

Quarterback Dan Collins was on Ottawa’s roster but didn’t play in a game.

“It was cool to see. We’re one big Black Bear family,” said Aultman. “We always stay close and stay tight. It’s a great time.”

Aultman and Baltimore said they love the CFL and their respective cities but had to adjust to CFL rules.

The fields are longer (110 yards vs. 100 yards) and wider (65 yards vs. 50) in the CFL compared to the National Football League and the end zone is 10 yards deeper (20 vs. 10 yards). The CFL uses 12 players on the field compared to 11 in the NFL and it affords three downs in which to pick up 10 yards and a first down while the NFL allows four.

The rule that required the biggest adjustment for them is the one in which several backs and receivers can be in motion and moving forward at the time the ball is snapped in the CFL. NFL and college rules allow only one offensive player to be moving and only laterally.

“That makes it tougher on the defensive backs but it also makes you a better defensive back,” said Baltimore.

“Almost everyone can be in motion which can be a struggle for the defense which has to make adjustments. But it works in our favor so we try to use it,” said Aultman, who spent time previously with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and New York Giants, who tried to convert him into a cornerback during training camp.

Aultman had 162 catches for 2,061 yards and 18 touchdowns during his career at UMaine. He also returned 60 kickoffs for 1,440 yards and two TDs.

Baltimore was in on 79 tackles during his four-year UMaine career and made three interceptions.

Both players were happy with their CFL seasons and are compensated well, according to Baltimore, who wouldn’t disclose his contract figures but said “we get paid nicely.”

Aultman said CFL training camps are much shorter than NFL camps “so you have to be able to adjust on the fly. There are a lot of guys competing for spots so you have to put more time in to adjust to the motion part of it.”

Baltimore said God has blessed him with the opportunity to continue his football career and he has worked hard to take advantage of it.

“God is good,” said Baltimore, who is one of the youngest defensive backs on the Ottawa roster.

He said head coach Rick Campbell, a former defensive backs coach, is one of the best he has ever played for.

“He has taught me a lot. He is a man of few words and he tells you to keep your mouth shut and to be classy. It’s a really classy organization,” said Baltimore.

The CFL regular season begins in June and both will be back with their respective teams.

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