Renegade roots

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

As Ottawa's first selection in the 2002 CFL expansion draft, Mike Maurer will forever be the answer to a trivia question.

Kelly Wiltshire was the fifth overall pick in the same draft, but quickly became No. 1 in the hearts of Renegades' fans.

Maurer, Wiltshire and Tim Fleiszer all sported Ottawa Renegades silks last season. Each took the free agent route to the Edmonton Eskimos this past winter.

The 29-year-old Maurer had hoped to finish his career with the Renegades.

But mounting evidence that the Ottawa franchise was in financial difficulty and a desire to be nearer his off-season home in Regina prompted Maurer to sign with the Esks.

"If anything it's going to be nice to play on a really familiar turf and playing against guys you have a pretty good idea of what their strengths and weaknesses are," offered Maurer.

"Going back and playing a team that you played on is like going back to the good old days of school yard football."

Of the three, Fleiszer is the only former Renegade to see the inside of the visitors' dressing room at Frank Clair Stadium.

Maurer and Wiltshire broke into the CFL in 1997, a season after the now-defunct Ottawa Rough Riders disappeared into a sea of red ink.

OTTAWA AND MONTREAL

Fleiszer, meanwhile, signed with Ottawa following three campaigns as a member of the Alouettes and joined the franchise for its sophomore season in '03.

"Having been on three teams, I'm kind of getting used to this routine of going back and playing my old team," the Harvard-educated Fleiszer said.

"I did it when I first left Hamilton and I did it when I first left Montreal. I imagine at some point I'll start walking to the wrong sideline and towards the wrong bench."

Plucked off Montreal's roster during the expansion draft, Wiltshire was an original Renegade. Ditto for Maurer, who was left unprotected by the B.C. Lions.

Landing with an expansion club, Maurer and Wiltshire knew things would be tough during the Renegades' inaugural season.

By the third season, however, the expectation was Ottawa would be a Grey Cup contender. That expectation was fuelled by the Renegades' 3-0-0 start and the fact Ottawa was hosting the Cup.

Then came a string of injuries beginning with the loss of starting quarterback Kerry Joseph, after which the nose dive began in earnest.

Ultimately, the sad state of the franchise triggered a sizable exodus when free agency rolled around in February.

"When I signed there I was under the understanding there was a three-year plan leading up to the Grey Cup with an attempt to try and make a major push towards the Cup," Fleiszer said.

"That off-season before the 2004 season, obviously quite a lot changed in terms of the team's approach. I still have a lot of great friends left over there and I'm happy to see them doing well."

Now with his fourth CFL club, Wiltshire knows what it's like to line up opposite former teammates and play in buildings he once called home.

"My feelings and emotions are probably going to come on game day," Wiltshire said. "I think the game will take care of itself. In terms of emotion, I won't need no pep talk or rally speech before the game."

Emotions aside, Edmonton's starting safety won't be any more motivated for tomorrow's game than he was for last week's tilt versus Winnipeg or any of the three games which preceded that encounter.

PICK IT UP

"It's not like we're going to pick up our game because it's Ottawa," Wiltshire said. "I hope you've played your best the whole year and continue to do that.

"I'm more concerned about how we're going to play as a team. You know, score points, defend against them scoring points and playing special teams. That's what I'm focused on right now."


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