Sliding away

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

Giulio Zardo's professional football career was short and bittersweet.

After leaving the Edmonton Eskimos' training camp Wednesday, the 24-year-old said he intends to finish his education and move on with his life.

"I realized I was in a place I shouldn't be," explained Zardo from his Montreal home yesterday. "I didn't feel at ease. Not that I felt like an outcast, I just didn't feel I should be there. I was doing pretty well for a guy who hadn't played in five years.

"It was more a feeling of awkwardness than a feeling of inferiority. The guys on the team were great. My heart and my mind weren't in it. I figured I would give it a shot and see where it would take me. Once I got there, I realized it wasn't for me."

A number of eyebrows were raised when Zardo left the Canadian bobsled program to sign with the Eskimos.

Prior to hitting the field for the opening of training camp on Sunday, the six-foot-three, 243-pound Zardo hadn't set foot on the gridiron in five years.

DISENCHANTED

Suspended following an alleged altercation with a national bobsled coach during the world championships in Austria last December, Zardo says the CFL team provided him with an out from a program with which he'd grown increasingly disenchanted.

"When the Eskimos offered me a contract, I was just looking to get out of where I was with the bobsleigh team," said Zardo, the brakeman for Edmonton's Pierre Lueders.

"Even had the Eskimos not approached me, I think I would have quit (the bob team) anyway. It happened all at once."

Lueders was among those with raised eyebrows following Zardo's decision to pursue a football career. The Olympian and world champion slider remains equally perplexed by Zardo's most recent decision.

"It's not every day that an athlete who's in a position to go to the Olympics or play football leaves both of them," Lueders said.

"That's just not a behaviour that you see every day. And from the fellow that I got to know since 2002, the characteristics of getting up and leaving or giving in or giving up is not the guy I got to know."

Despite a cooling of the relationship between Lueders and his one-time brakeman, Lueders was hoping things would pan out for Zardo.

"After he left, I thought if that's what he wants to do, that's what he wants to do. If he wants to play football, I hope he makes it," said Lueders, who played high-school football at Jasper Place Composite in the late 1980s. "...Unfortunately, I guess that's not going to happen now."

Zardo met with Esks head coach Danny Maciocia Wednesday morning to outline the reasons for his decision to leave the team. While Maciocia was hedging his bets on a possible return by Zardo, the one-time linebacker has ruled that and a return to the bob team out.

"All the guys I was playing with had university degrees," said Zardo, who has now been suspended by the Esks. "I need to put my life in perspective and see where I (am) going."

ESKS HAD A LEG UP

Calgary was the first CFL club to express an interest in Zardo. However, Maciocia hailing from the same part of east-end Montreal as Zardo gave the Esks a leg up.

After adding Zardo to the team's negotiation list, Maciocia was able to get his signature on a contract.

While Lueders was not prepared to put words in Maciocia's mouth, the champion driver suspects the Green and Gold head coach might be a little miffed with the way things turned out.

"There's obviously some time and effort put in there and I guess he probably feels the same way I did," Lueders said.


Videos

Photos