Big Moe Elewonibi would have a lot to tell

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:17 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- A boxing promoter would call it: Big Moe vs. Smokin' Joe.

When the Eskimos battle the Lions this afternoon in the CFL West final, Edmonton's Joe Montford - one of the best defensive ends in the game - will go toe-to-toe in the trench against Moe Elewonibi, arguably the Lions best tackle.

It's a great matchup.

But it's an even better story.

PATH TO DESTRUCTION

At the ripe football age of 39, Elewonibi is back in the sport's spotlight after walking down a path that would have likely led to personal destruction.

"I think he can write a book," said B.C.'s other tackle Cory Mantyka, "when he is all done (playing)."

And what a read it would be.

"He is a body of inspiration for all of us," remarked centre Angus Reid.

For 18 years - from being a teenager to the turn of the decade - alcohol and/or drugs were part of Elewonibi's life.

At certain times, he was practically playing a game of chicken with his own life.

"I did as many drugs as I could find," he remembered.

But it all came to a screeching halt on Feb. 3, 2000. The images and sounds of that day still stick in his mind.

"I remember coming home. And remember when you were a teenager and you walked into your house and you knew you were in trouble?" said Elewonibi, painting the picture inside his mother's house in Victoria that day.

"I felt that mood that day.

"My mom asked me to sit down at the kitchen table ... and told me she was really scared for where I was going. Within 20 minutes we were driving."

It's a humbling experience for a 34-year-old man to be dropped at a rehab centre by his mother for three months.

But Elewonibi accepted the move and emerged to play in Winnipeg that summer.

Unfortunately for the Bombers, he didn't really produce many stellar years. His technique slid down a fast, ugly slope.

"If you talked to a lot of D-linemen over the last few years I held more than I actually blocked," he bluntly admitted.

The Lions gambled on him this spring, but he could have been cut based on his so-called performance at camp.

"I was surprised they kept me (at training camp)," said the Nigerian native.

"I wasn't as good as the first six or seven guys. My technique was just horrible. I was holding, late off the ball, getting beat a lot."

DRASTICALLY IMPROVED

But his game drastically improved while working with offensive line coach Dan Dorazio, to the point that he is now the team's top lineman.

"The guy has played unbelievable," continued Reid.

One week after getting his first start of the year, Elewonibi kept Montford from sacking quarterback Casey Printers on Oct. 28.

"It was reminiscent of playing against him before he was set down a little bit," said Montford, who had sacked B.C.'s pivots four times in the previous two games this year before being shut out by Elewonibi.

"He did an excellent job.

"He is one of those guys that if you are not on top of your game, you are not going to get to the quarterback."

And getting to the quarterback is the name of the game this afternoon.

In a battle of the best vs. the best, it should be a slugfest - to steal a term from a boxing promoter.


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