Love those patriot games

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

Danny Maciocia may or may not get to the Grey Cup with his Edmonton Eskimos this year. But he's going back to the NFL Global Junior Championship at the Super Bowl.

"I couldn't say no," said the Canadian-born coach who led Canada to the football version of the World Junior last year at Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, Florida.

"Just like I couldn't reneg on my commitment last year because I'd suddenly been given the job as head coach of the Eskimos, I couldn't say no when they asked me to do it again."

YES, YES, AND YES

In fact, he said yes, yes and yes.

Maciocia will coach Canada at the NFL Global Junior at Super Bowl XXXX in Detroit, Super Bowl XXXXI in Miami and Super Bowl XXXXII in Phoenix.

"This project is too dear to me, too close to my heart. To be asked to represent Canada, to wear the Maple Leaf in an international event, that's just huge.

"I'm very proud to be a Canadian head coach in the CFL and to be asked to do something like this is a privilege. I couldn't say no."

That said, in saying yes he surprised himself. When his Canadian kids won the title last year, beating the U.S. 38-35 in the final, he said he wouldn't put himself through it again as a CFL head coach.

A month ago, with the Eskimos in the middle of a serious skid, Macioca said he was still thinking no. But he told the organizers he'd give them a final decision during bye week, and agreed to a three-year run.

This year's Global Junior will be held Jan. 25 with the round-robin mini-games and the final on Jan. 28, a full eight days before Super Bowl Sunday instead of the day before, as was the case in Jacksonville, and will be the case in Miami and Phoenix.

The upside is that they'll play in the same stadium in Detroit as the Super Bowl.

"I spent a lot of time debating, trying to figure out the time involvement and how that would affect everything. But in the end, I decided it was definitely doable.

AN EASIER GO OF IT

"It'll be easier this year than last year. We made a lot of changes with the Eskimos over the off-season last year that we won't be making this year.

"We had to go through it. But no matter how this season turns out, we feel we have a pretty good foundation to go forward and be a better team for it. So I won't have as much on my plate that way."

He also won't be heading into his rookie season as head coach.

"Now I know all about living with being a head coach. There's not that much different on the field than it was as an assistant, but I've had a lot to learn off the field."

Maciocia says the odds are that he's not likely going to win the Global Junior every year as coach.

IT'S NCAA RULES

"At least, you're not supposed to," he said of going against the Americans in addition to nations such as Mexico and Japan - as well as one from Europe (France last year).

"You have to play NCAA rules, the American-sized field and even use a different football. But you have to love the challenge to do Canada proud."

He won't have Jerome Messam as a freight-train running back this time.

"I'd have signed up a month ago if he was coming back," he said.

Maciocia found a way to pay Messam's way to Florida last year.

The kid paid him back with 308 yards rushing in the championship game. Messam, who said his goal was to play for Maciocia in the CFL, is currently tearing it up in his first year of college in North Dakota.

Seventeen members of last year's title team are back. In all, 110 will be invited to a camp in Montreal from which the 36-man team is chosen.

Eskimos equipment man Dwayne Mandrusiak, who took over that side of the program with the project, will also be back for the next three years.

Maciocia also plans to use a dozen coaches again. Esks assistant Dan Kepley, who went last year, will likely be one. Maciocia expects seven or eight of his CIS coaches to return.

"There's an advantage of being together with them for two weeks in getting a real good read on who they think are the top draft-age prospects," he said.


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