EDMONTON - Jamal Robertson is in a new jersey this season, but on Sunday night it looked like he could have been playing in a much older one.
The 33-year-old running back joined the B.C. Lions after spending the past two seasons with the Toronto Argonauts, but his 168-yard performance in a 25-10 victory over the Edmonton Eskimos to open the season was that of a player in his prime.
“Jamal Robertson, he’s a solid back, obviously. I coached him at Ohio Northern University,” said Eskimos secondary coach Stacey Hairston, who was the defensive backs coach with the Polar Bears.
“He’s very durable, I’m just glad he’s up in age and doesn’t have the same speed he had when he was running sub-4.3s (40-yard dash).”
Robertson had a run of 44 yards to open the first scoring drive of the game, a field goal by Lions kicker Paul McCallum to close out the first quarter.
The running back then one-upped himself midway through the second quarter with a 61-yard rush that eluded tackles by Justin Brown, Mark Restelli, Rod Davis and Jason Nugent before scoring the Lions only touchdown of the game.
“I just go out and play the game, however the game unfolds,” said Robertson, who spent time with the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers as a kick returner and backup running back.
“Every game is different. Sometimes it’s the running game, sometimes it’s the passing game, sometimes it’s a mixture of both. However it unfolds, we just make the best of it.”
If Robertson has in fact lost a step, he didn’t show it Sunday. Just don’t ask him how fast he used to be.
“I don’t know, man. Game speed, everything turns on,” said Robertson, who if anything, plays smarter instead of harder now.
“I feel I have a little more understanding of the game now, I’m a little more mature about the game so it’s a plus.”
Lone bright spot
Robertson’s performance overshadowed the lone bright spot on the Eskimos offence, as running back Arkee Whitlock ran for 116 yards on 16 carries with a touchdown.
The pair sits No. 1 and 2 among the league’s rushing leaders, with Whitlock matching Calgary Stampeders running back Joffrey Reynolds’s 116 yards, but on one less attempt.
“Any time he gets 100 yards, we should be in pretty good position,” Ray said.
“He’s got some great feet. He makes a lot of guys miss. Even when things aren’t there, he can make one guy miss and then get up in the hole.”
Whitlock ran three times for a total of 25 yards to find the end zone and cap a nine-play, 56-yard drive late in the half, picking up where he left off last year as a CFL rookie with an impressive 1,293 rushing yards.
“We did a great job of that in the second half of last year and that’s one thing that coach Strass (offensive co-ordinator Kevin Strasser) does well,” Ray said.
“He commits to the run and when we get the run game moving like that we’re going to be in a lot of good situations.”