Walker primed to provide Argos with a prime-time deep threat
He went from a football fishbowl to a market where three-down football barely registers when it comes to coverage, visibility and name recognition.
But that’s life for any player on the Argonauts and it is not restricted to someone as accomplished as Derel Walker.
What Argos fans — the authentic passionate variety — have shown throughout the many years is their loyalty and patience, in good times and bad.
Walker, signed by the Boatmen as a free agent this past off-season, is one those rare game-changers in the CFL who doesn’t line up behind centre, a deep receiving threat whose presence forces opposing defences to account for him in whatever scheme gets dialed up.
In many ways, Walker finds himself at Argos camp in that phase of getting his feet wet, learning a new system with new players in a new environment.
At least he has James Franklin to provide support, the two first meeting when the quarterback and receiver were with the Edmonton Eskimos a few years ago.
Whether it’s Walker or Franklin, the Argos are installing a new system on offence, creating a working atmosphere where everyone is starting anew.
Franklin will have to earn the starting QB job, while Walker is virtually assured of lining up at the boundary wideout slot.
With Franklin’s big arm and ability to extend plays coupled with Walker’s big-play capability, there’s a hope of fielding an exciting offence.
Franklin broke down the team at Tuesday’s practice, one of those football signs of leadership.
“He’ll earn that to be the leader of our football team,’’ said head coach Corey Chamblin of Franklin breaking down the team. “Right now, his job is to be a quarterback and lead an offence. And he’ll earn that right through his play to become one of the leaders.”
Walker is the type to lead by example, but his talents will do all his talking.
“I’m coming along well,’’ said Walker. “Everything is transitioning well for me. At the moment, I’m processing everything well. I’m very excited about this offensive playbook.
“I’m picking things up and it’s been positive. There’s definitely a new terminology.”
No player not playing the quarterback position in the CFL this season will earn more than Walker, whom the Argos targeted once they lost out on the free-agent bidding for QB Bo Levi Mitchell, a two-time Grey Cup champion in Calgary.
Money hasn’t changed Walker, who knows the pay scale in the CFL does not lead to riches.
“I’m a down-to-earth kind of guy,’’ said Walker. “I’ll hang out with everybody. Of course, I have my little circle of friends, especially the receivers because we’re around each other for the majority of the time.
“There’s more to life than football and I do enjoy talking life with the guys when we get together. We can only play football for so long. It’s a brotherhood.”
If all goes well, Walker will be lining up next to veteran and future Hall of Famer S.J. Green.
“Let’s make this one the best year yet,’’ Walker said of a conversation he had with the slotback.
GLOBAL HOPEFULS ON HOLD
One of these days, Argos head coach Corey Chamblin wants to see how some of the team’s new kids on the gridiron block originating from Mexico and Europe react as a means to better evaluate their skill level and potential impact.
Once the league’s new deal with its players is officially ratified, all member teams will have one roster slot designated for a global player — part of the CFL’s global outreach program.
For the Argos, one Mexican-born player, and apparently he was pretty good, hurt his knee during his season, while a European-based player opted to pursue a business internship rather than audition for the Argos.
“You can see the progression in their thought process and the questions asked in meetings,’’ said Chamblin. “Sooner or later we’ll have to see and turn them loose on the field and see if they can play.”
Like any rookie taken in this year’s CFL draft or any first-year American getting exposed to three-down football, there’s a learning curve.
As for any language issues, Chamblin dismissed it.
“I’m from Alabama,’’ he said. “There are language barriers with everybody..
“It’s not so much a language barrier, but a terminology barrier. They haven’t been in these football systems and that’s the biggest issue.”
GETTING THE MESSAGE ACROSS
Whether it’s the part-time observers he’s assembled or the guest coaches around him, Corey Chamblin has an extra set of eyes and guys familiar with what the Argos want to emphasize on both sides of the ball.
On defence, he has Donnavan Carter serving as a guest coach. He played for the Argos as a DB before starting his coaching career in Canadian university football.
On offence, there’s Justin Chapdelaine, Jacques Chapdelaine’s son who has a thorough understanding of the system Toronto’s new offensive co-ordinator and quarterbacks coach wants to install.
“Right now at this point, I want the coaches to establish their systems,’’ said the head coach who also doubles as the team’s defensive co-ordinator.
“Donnavan understands what we’re doing,’’ added Chamblin. “We’re close. Justin has worked with his father and he understands the system. I didn’t want to bring in too many guys because we’re training as well. We (Chamblin and his assistants) have had to work together as well.”