Long route for LeFors

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

TORONTO -- It's amazing how one string of events nearly 12 years ago on Louisiana football fields is having such a profound impact on the Edmonton Eskimos.

Quarterback Stefan LeFors will make his first-ever CFL regular season start for the Esks tomorrow afternoon in Toronto.

But if it weren't for a sudden change in middle school and a high school coaches having significant faith in a rookie, LeFors wouldn't be leading the Green and Gold into a crucial game against the Argos.

"In middle school -- I was in eighth grade at the time -- I was playing receiver and our No. 1 (quarterback) went down," remembered the 26-year-old LeFors.

"So, for the following week -- we didn't have a backup -- the coach (said): 'You are going to play quarterback this week.'

"I said: 'Alright, I will give it a shot.' So, we did all right, did well. The high school coach was at the game and he was like - hey, what do you think about coming to play quarterback next year for our high school? I said, 'Alright I will give it a shot.' "

Phillip Ironside was that high school coach at Christian Life Academy in Baton Rouge.

Showing faith in an undersized rookie with almost zero experience at quarterback, Ironside decided to start LeFors from the moment he arrived in Grade 9.

It turned out to be one of the most important moves in LeFors' football career.

"He was the one who made me play quarterback," remembered LeFors of Ironside.

"He was like -- 'hey, you need to play quarterback.' He was the one that got my foundation started."

All these years later, Ironside still considers LeFors one of his special students.

"You could just tell he could do it. He started from Day 1," recalled Ironside on the phone from his new school in Georgia this week.

"His presence, the way he carried himself. He could handle it. He was a good runner, was a good thrower."

In LeFors's first year in high school he had stunning success -- including toppling a team featuring a future NFL starting quarterback.

"We beat the No. 1 team in the state, Northeast Louisiana," said Ironside. "His freshman year -- I am pretty sure -- was the year we beat Eli Manning in the playoffs. It was Eli's senior year and Stefan's freshman year."

While Ironside left Baton Rouge after LeFors' sophomore year, he has still follows his career to this day.

And the most influential coach in LeFors's career believes his former pupil will handle the pressure of being the Eskimos new starting quarterback.

"Stefan, when he was with us, starting as a freshman, was probably five-foot-nine and 135 pounds," said Ironside.

"Too small, parents are deaf, a kid that is never supposed to make it. All he did was start for four years in high school, win a bunch of games.

"Then he is not good enough to go play college ball. He ends up getting a scholarship at Louisville. And then he is not good enough to play there, but goes on to win a ton of games and set records.

"You are not good enough to go to the NFL. You are not good enough to keep playing (professionally).

"He's just one of those kids that is going to keep on doing it (proving doubters wrong).

"They will see Saturday (in Toronto) and they will think he's the greatest thing because he is a competitor.

"He is a winner and a good kid."


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