TORONTO -- Chris Armstrong, cast adrift by the expansion Las Vegas Posse this spring, has become an instant impact player for Baltimore's CFL team.
Last week, in his preseason Baltimore debut, the veteran CFL receiver scored the franchise's first touchdown at Memorial Stadium. But that was merely a warm-up for the regular-season opener at SkyDome last night.
Armstrong burned the Toronto Argonauts for first-half touchdown receptions of 32 and 43 yards, giving Baltimore a lead it never relinquished en route to a 28-20 victory. He finished the night with a game-high six receptions for 116 yards.
"I kind of pinched myself on the sidelines and said, 'Is this really happening to me?' " said Armstrong, who has reunited with quarterback Tracy Ham, with whom he played in Edmonton in 1991 and 1992.
"This was much sweeter than the exhibition game, because this counts in the standings."
Ham persuaded Baltimore coach Don Matthews to give Armstrong a tryout after he was released by the Posse.
"That's why I respect Coach Matthews," said Ham. "He asked my opinion, and apparently what I told him counted for something."
This time, it was the town of Las Vegas that lost big.
"What happened," said Armstrong, "was that I reported early to Las Vegas with some other veterans when they opened rookie camp. But the CFL commissioner said that was against the rules. So the Posse sent me home, and [coach] Ron Meyer never called me back."
Armstrong made a strong impression on Matthews and receivers coach Don Hill to win a starting spot at slotback.
"I had seen Chris play before for Edmonton and Ottawa," said Matthews, who coached against him. "He had to tighten up his game, but Tracy has been a great influence on him."
Said Hill: "Chris has great athletic ability. He really concentrates on catching the ball, and when he catches it, he knows how to make people miss him. He's real good on reading coverages. He saw Toronto's safety come up on the two touchdown plays, and just ran by him."
Said Armstrong: "We worked on that play all week in practice, trying to bait the safety. Any time I get a step on him, I should beat him. And it worked just like we planned."
Armstrong, who played collegiately in his hometown for Fayetteville (N.C.) State, shared the credit for his impressive debut with Baltimore.
"The offensive line did a great job protecting Tracy all night," he said, "and that's all Tracy needs to find his receivers."
Like almost all American football products, Armstrong said he dreamed constantly of winning a job in the NFL.
"I had a tryout with the New York Giants in 1990 after playing Arena Football in Washington," he said. "And last year, I stuck with New England through the preseason.
"I had a great opportunity, but when it didn't materialize, it let me know something about myself and the game. I promised myself that if I made it in Baltimore, this was where I was going to make my pro football mark. Right now, I hope I spend the rest of my career playing in Baltimore."