Jones would rather win grey cup than be a starter – edmonton eskimos

“My motto for years now has been, ‘You prepare as a starter because you never know when you will be put in that position,’ ” he continued. “In a business like this, when you do get that opportunity, and you get thrown in there under fire, and there is a drop-off in production or communication or responsibilities in assignments, then they’re not going to trust you to do it again, and they’ll find somebody else to do it.”

The Alouettes (1-7) could be the cure for what ailed the Eskimos last week. Edmonton has a nine-game winning streak against Montreal – the second-longest currently in the CFL in head-to-head competition, exceeded only by the Calgary Stampeders’ 13 consecutive victories over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Als have been struggling overall, with only one victory in their last 19 games dating back to last season.

“First and foremost, I’m blessed and very appreciative and fortunate to still be playing,” Jones said. “I’m very happy and pleased with where I’m at in the organization in Edmonton. There’s no place I would rather play, so I’ve very happy to be here with the group of guys I’m with. Some of my best friends in life are on this team, so it’s fun for me to get to go to work with those guys every day.”

Although Jones was under the impression that the Eskimos would be starting two American linebackers when he returned to Edmonton after one season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2016, the outside linebacker (WIL or weak-side) position has been since designated for national players whenever possible the last two seasons. CFL teams have to start a combination of at least seven Canadian players on offence and/or defence combined at all times, so the ratio move at WIL allows the Esks an option to start four international receivers on offence.

“It’s kind of how it goes, man,” Jones said about his role as a backup player. “It is what it is. I would much rather win a Grey Cup than be a starter if that makes sense. I’d obviously like to contribute to that Grey Cup win and winning games, and I’m able to do that without being a starter. I’m able to do that through special teams and in situations where I do have to step in and play as a starter.”

“When the clock hit zero, and we won” is the first thing he remembers about that game. “That was pretty incredible getting to smile and laugh and having your family (father Kim and mother Lynelle) down on the field and hoisting the cup and going into the locker room, and everything was covered in plastic because you know we were about to make a mess in there,” he said. “That was unforgettable.”

Jones started his CFL career with the BC Lions in 2013, playing two games late in the regular season and then a playoff game. Cut by the Lions after training camp in 2014, he attended a tryout with the Eskimos in Vero Beach, Fla., in 2015 and then was invited to the mini-camp in Vero Beach that followed and finally to training camp in Edmonton.

“I took the CFL very seriously,” he said. “I remember flying home from Regina, Saskatchewan, in ’13. We had lost to Sask (in the playoffs) and (defensive back) Dante Marsh was sitting next to me on the plane, and we were just talking. He told me, ‘You be as professional as you want to be.’ That’s something that’s always resonated with me and stuck with me to this day.

Jones had already been to two NFL training camps as an undrafted free agent, spending four months with the Arizona Cardinals in 2013 and earning a late invitation to the Green Bay Packers’ training camp after he was released by BC in ‘14. The Packers called him on a Monday about a tryout on a Wednesday, but warned Jones that “it would be difficult for me to make the roster because they’d have to release somebody to bring me in for camp.”

“I didn’t understand what was going on. How did he get a call and I didn’t get a call to play in some league, yada, yada, yada? I wasn’t sure what it was. I was just curious about it. Didn’t look into it, though, and the very next day I got a call from one of the league’s organizers asking if I wanted to play on the regional team in Omaha. The Florida (Blacktips) team didn’t play in Florida. They played in other regions. Denver was in the Omaha region, so they asked if I wanted to play on the weekend.

“To be very honest with you, I thought it might be my last time to play football. Football isn’t quite like basketball where you can just go down to the rec centre and play five-on-five competitive ball and get a good little run in. I kind of chalked it up as I was just going to go out there and play some backyard football and just have some fun enjoying playing the game that I love.”

It took Jones a while to finally settle in at middle linebacker. He was initially a safety in high school before getting shifted to defensive end as a sophomore. He was recruited to Garden City Community College as a linebacker but played safety again his first season before moving to linebacker his second year. At the University of Wyoming, he started out as a defensive end but switched to middle linebacker (MAC) after five games – making quarterback sacks on three consecutive plays at one point.

“It’s just a couple of yards over on the field, but the communication is a little bit different,” he said about playing WIL. “You communicate with different people – that boundary (short-side) corner, that boundary half – and the angles are a little bit different. Things get a little bit quicker. Route combos get on you a little quicker. The box angles are a little bit different. Nothing crazy, but it’s just some slight little detail things in there that are a little bit different.”

National cornerback Arjen Colquhoun returns to the six-game injured list for a second time this season while linebacker Brandon Pittman was placed on the practice roster along with recently signed national long snapper Tanner Doll and national linebacker Doug Parris. National wide receiver Sam Giguere, international linebacker Jeremiah Kose and international offensive lineman Kelvin Palmer were all released.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, in partnership with the Eskimos and the CFL, will welcome 50 new citizens in a special ceremony in the Quarterback Club at The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium at 5 p.m. Saturday. The citizenship ceremony will be the first of three in the CFL in celebration of the league’s Diversity Is Strength campaign.