Alan-Michael Cash laughs about his one regret from his time at NC State. “Back in school, coming up, everyone chooses Spanish,” he says. “But I’ve said to myself I should have taken French.”
Cash laments his chance at learning French because he hears the language everyday on his way to and at work. He takes the Montreal metro to football practice for the Montreal Alouettes, a team in the Canadian Football League. And in addition to French being the official language of Montreal, it is also the language spoken by most of the players on the team.
Language is just one thing Cash has had to adjust to the since coming to Canada two years ago. After leaving his football career at NC State behind in 2010, he played for the Richmond Revolution, an Indoor Football League team in Richmond, Va., his hometown. One of the coaches there, Billy Parker, played cornerback for the Alouettes and told Cash he should come up and try out as a defensive tackle.
“He brought me out to Canada, and the rest was history,” Cash says.
Canada had never been on Cash’s radar, having never visited the country. But, he says, passion for football knows no geographical boundaries.
“I never thought I’d play out of the country,” he says. “It was just something new. But when you have that love of the game, you’ll play anywhere. Wherever you get in, you go.”
The CFL season runs from June to November. The league has different rules than the NFL and college football. For instance, if a kicker misses a field goal, the defense can run it back, much like a punt return, as seen in this 125-yard return from earlier this season.
Cash felt the difference in the rules when he lined up for the first time. In Canada, linemen have to play a yard off of the ball, farther away than they do in the American game. But now such nuances don’t bother him and he’s taken his transition in stride. “It’s not even a big adjustment to me now,” he says.
Though there are no other Wolfpackers playing in the CFL, Cash says he bonds with other ACC players on the Alouettes, who have already clinched their division with a 10-6 mark through Friday, about their time playing football “down south,” sometimes through bragging rights.
Cash has only been able to see one NC State football game this season, and that was the Wolfpack’s last-minute win against Florida State. He immediately let Alouettes teammate and former Seminole Adrian McPherson know about NC State’s victory.
And Cash has learned that the language barrier is only so vast, especially when it comes to fans of the Alouettes rivals, like the Hamilton Tiger-Cats or the Toronto Argonauts.
“They know how to talk trash,” he says. “You definitely get the trash talk in English.”