Dan's the man

Edmonton Eskimos new head coach Danny Maciocia poses for a family photo with his daughter Juliana,...

Edmonton Eskimos new head coach Danny Maciocia poses for a family photo with his daughter Juliana, who's being held by his wife, Sandra, at Commonwealth Stadium last December. (Edmonton Sun File/Walter Tychnowicz)

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:25 AM ET

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Edmonton Eskimos hired the right guy.

Danny Maciocia is going to be everything that Tom Higgins wasn't.

I wasn't so sure about that until I spent a day in the rain and cold at a high school football field here yesterday.

I wasn't so sure that maybe Greg Marshall might not have been a better choice because of experience.

But Maciocia is a head coach. He's the guy. And yesterday he showed everybody why.

He was coaching teenagers here yesterday - coaching them to a 4-0 record in the festival round of the NFL's Global Junior tournament to advance to Saturday's final, including a thrilling win over the USA which will probably be the most exciting football game played here this week.

Dwayne Mandrusiak has been the Eskimos equipment man going back to the five-in-a-row run and worked with every coach since Hugh Campbell.

He's worked with good ones, bad ones. He's bit his lip and said nothing about the bad ones.

But he's excited with what he watched here. And if you know Mandrusiak, he's not the easily excitable sort.

"Danny Maciocia has a presence on the field and it's awesome," raved Mandrusiak this day of a quality that Higgins was clearly missing.

"Being a head coach is what Danny is meant to do.

"He's going to be great."

Mandrusiak said one of the reasons he signed on as equipment man of Team Canada is that he thought it would be a great experience for me to watch how it would be with Maciocia as head coach.

"In practices, let me tell you, he knows what he's doing. He's vocal. If you make a mistake, he'll bite your ass. If you do something good, he'll praise you. He made these guys understand they weren't here for a holiday."

Maciocia gets marks for just being here, for insisting that he be allowed to live up to his commitment to coach Team Canada when the Eskimos offered him the job as head coach.

While he coached this team to the final last year, Maciocia says he probably isn't going to volunteer for next year.

"It's been a tough week. To be here coaching this team and putting stuff together for the Eskimos at the same time has really been a challenge.

"I've been on the phone to Rick Lelacheur, Hugh Campbell and Paul Jones every day. It's taken a lot out of me," said the head coach who lost Marshall, the Eskimos defensive co-ordinator and is looking for a replacement he wants to have in place within two weeks.

"I'm not saying no," said the Canadian head coach.

"I am a patriot. I love representing my country."

He gave his team a dressing down which could be heard outside the dressing room door after they'd scored a 14-7 win over the USA in the game of the day, a game which ended with Canada stopping the Americans on the one yard line.

Several Canadian players said things to the officials, who had made two brutal calls against Canada during the game and a significant percentage of players ended up in verbal exchanges with the Americans.

"This is what I do for a living," he shouted at them.

"Let me talk to them. I know exactly what to say."

Opening with a 35-0 win over Japan, Canada (which would later beat Mexico 6-0 and France 27-0) had just won a fabulously entertaining game against the hosts. And yet he was reaming them out for lack of discipline.

"It's a learning experience.

"We told them we're going to give them a pro experience here and that's what we're doing. You can't get caught up in that," said Maciocia.

Jerome Messam, the six-foot-three, 235-pound running back from the junior Brampton Bulldogs, who signed a letter of intent with Rutgers at 8:15 a.m., ran over people in both of the first two games and was the hero of the win over the U.S., scoring the winning touchdown with 22 seconds to play. He certainly wasn't expecting to come back to the dressing room to face that.

"He's going to play in the CFL someday," said Maciocia, who felt he was doing the kid a favour.

Maybe he'll play in the CFL for Maciocia someday.


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