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Before talks heated up on putting pen to paper on a new deal, David Menard spent the first portion of his off-season enjoying a deserved vacation in Europe. It was an experience he won’t soon forget.
“I went to Belgium to see a friend who is there on a student exchange. She was already there so that was a perfect excuse. Then I went to Austria and Rome on my own. It was awesome,” Menard said from his offseason home in Chicoutimi, Quebec.
The craft beer lover was also able to get a taste of some local flavours in each of the three countries he visited.
“Belgium has so many flavours,” he explained.
“My main goal was to taste as many beers as I could, not drink a lot of beer but just try new flavours every day. It was three weeks after the season ended so I figured I could have a couple drinks, right?” Menard added with a chuckle.
Make no mistake: he is in full football mode now.
Heading into his fifth season with the club, Menard has established a small list of his favourite local breweries but has been much more devoted when it comes to pressuring the quarterback and causing problems for the opposition up front.
His two-year contract is also deserved. It comes after a productive campaign where he recorded ten defensive tackles, five quarterback sacks and a pair of forced fumbles, very nearly matching his career year numbers from 2015. On a defence that has had game-breakers such as Solomon Elimimian, Adam Bighill and Ryan Phillips in the last few years, Menard has established himself as one of the unit’s top foot soldiers.
Having him back in the Lions’ rotation will do nothing but good for the ratio. He insists it was never his thought to test the free agent market three weeks from now.
“Staying in BC is really important to me because they are the team that drafted me and I like to think I’m a loyal person. To know that they wanted me back was a big deal for me. I’m very excited about it,” Menard said.
A fourth-round selection in the 2014 draft, Menard has indeed proven to be one of the better late round gems found by Wally Buono and Neil McEvoy in recent years.
Perhaps that’s a product of his upbringing: no project too big. Especially when you consider he didn’t learn the English language until age 13.
“I didn’t really notice how hard (the language) until my first season in BC was done,” Menard said.
While playing hockey was pretty much the law for kids in Chicoutimi, Menard decided early on that football was his path.
“Hockey is the first sport kids play here, but I never played anything else besides football. I started playing at age 14. You don’t do much ‘big city’ stuff in Chicoutimi; it’s all outdoor sports like skiing and snowboarding. I still have to get to Whistler when there is snow.”
As for the task at hand, Menard was part of a defence that finished in the bottom three of the league in both sacks (28) and QB pressures (95) in 2017. By comparison, the Calgary Stampeders led both categories with 50 sacks and 125 pressures.
General Manager Ed Hervey has made no secret of the fact his squad must be better on both sides of the line of scrimmage. That isn’t lost on Menard.
“It’s no secret, we need to be better. As a defensive lineman, you take that as a challenge when it comes from the GM. It means we didn’t get the job done and I have always been thrilled with being presented a challenge to focus on in my training. That motivates me. You take it a bit personally, but at the same time it has to motivate you.”
Randy Melvin is back as defensive line coach, the same position he held during the franchise’s last Grey Cup victory in 2011. Melvin was also with the Lions as a guest coach in 2017 training camp and Menard can’t wait to work with him on a day-to-day basis.
“That’s huge. If they were going to make a change, Randy was the best guy they could bring in,” Menard
It all adds up to the same end goal: the chance to bring a shiny piece of luggage on his next European adventure.
“I would have to bring the Grey Cup to Chicoutimi first,” Menard cautioned.
“But yeah, Europe would be pretty awesome too.”
Talk about a cool way to sample beer.