If you listen closely to Marlane and Donovan Black talk about their two sons, Toronto Argonauts Matt and Eric, you can hear their hearts sing.
The duo live in North Toronto, just up the street from Northern Secondary School, and having both of their boys playing professional football has been a surreal experience.
Even more so when Eric was drafted and named to the CFL team in June.
“We were just hoping he’d get drafted by somebody, and when he was drafted in the fifth round (38th overall) by the Argos, I really found it hard to believe at first,” said Marlane Black, who works as an operating room nurse. “It was just like a dream.
“I was so flabbergasted that he’d get so lucky to be drafted by the Argos.”
When the Town Crier spoke to Matt, he said his mom would have been heartbroken if Eric wound up being drafted by rival Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“That would have made it a difficult situation for me, now wouldn’t it?” Marlane admitted, laughing. “[The Argos] saved me a lot of anguish by drafting him.
“That was a really, really thrilling day. I remember worrying so much about Matt, and it was the same thing all over again. There they were, the two of them, on the same team, and we would be able to see that. We feel really fortunate that happened.”
Still, both Marlane and Donovan did nothing extraordinary to promote athletics in the family. It was just a natural progression, they say.
Donovan was a sprinter in his youth, which was spent in Jamaica. He grew up in Falmouth, in Trelawny Parish, and ran with Ben Johnson. But, after his good friend left for Canada Donovan followed his heart into music, playing the drums for bands such as Messenjah.
“I left the sprinting business to play music,” he said. “I just fell in love with music and I started playing drums and started travelling in Europe and all over the world.
“On one of my trips back to Jamaica I met Marlane at one of the resorts.”
The rest, as it goes, is history. Donovan settled in Canada permanently in 1987, and his greatest encouragement was ensuring his sons made it to hockey, baseball, basketball and, most importantly, football.
“They both played a lot of sports,” Marlane said. “They played hockey, baseball, basketball and soccer at school.
“We’re always really into athletics, and having a good time. They had a lot of fun.”
She said Matt loved football from the start, when he went to Northern in Grade 9, and Eric “just sort of followed in his footsteps.”
Both Marlane and Donovan have run the parental routes with their boys, never missing a chance to see them play in for their respective colleges — Matt, Saginaw Valley State and Eric, St. Mary’s University.
“We used to drive every Friday evening to Michigan to watch Matt’s home games, and some of the road games that weren’t too far from Saginaw,” Donovan said.
Grand Rapids was a destination, too — “a little bit further for us, but we used to go in a snowstorm to see every game.”
As for the next step, a Grey Cup win for both Matt and Eric, (Matt won the top prize with the Argonauts in 2012), would be an oar in the Argo for Marlane and Donovan.
“If they were still playing on the same team and they happen to win a Grey Cup that would be something that happens in a movie,” Marlane said.
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