Top pick hits highway

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

It will go down in CFL history as one of the most surprising draft day moves.

With Dimitri Tsoumpas sitting in the Edmonton Eskimos office - waiting to be announced as the club's second overall selection in the CFL draft - the Green and Gold pulled a stunning trade.

EDMONTON NATIVE

Even though Tsoumpas - an Edmonton native - had verbally agreed to a three-year contract with the Eskimos, that didn't stop Edmonton head coach Danny Maciocia from trading the rights to the second-overall pick to the Calgary Stampeders at 9:40 a.m. yesterday morning, just 20 minutes before the draft was scheduled to start.

It capped a stunning 24-hour period, which saw Tsoumpas fly from Salt Lake to Edmonton - on the Eskimos' dime - to get ready to be introduced as a building block on the Esks' O-line for years to come.

Instead, the former Strathcona High School product is a Calgary Stampeder.

The Eskimos traded the second and 16th overall picks in yesterday's draft to Calgary for non-import offensive lineman John Comiskey, non-import receiver Kevin Challenger and the 11th and 19th overall selections in the draft.

Calgary used that second overall pick to grab Tsoumpas.

"Everyone told me (football) is a business and sure enough it is," said Tsoumpas while driving to Calgary yesterday afternoon.

The shocking trade started to materialize very early yesterday morning when Jim Barker - the director of player personnel for the Stamps - called Maciocia.

"At six o'clock (in the) morning I got a phone call and an offer was made," said Maciocia.

"We countered. And they came back and countered again. And then I countered for the last time about 8:30 a.m."

Once the deal was put in place, Maciocia had the right to cancel everything before the draft started.

Maciocia had a 15-minute window to determine if he really wanted to pull the trigger on the deal.

Ironically, he went and questioned new assistant coach A.J. Gass, who threw Comiskey's helmet at Commonwealth Stadium in a moment of rage last year.

"I said: 'Who is the toughest centre you played against last year?'" relayed Maciocia.

"He mentioned Comi. He didn't know what was going on. And he talked about the kind of attitude he played the position with. That is all I needed to hear.

"I turned around and got to my desk and picked up the phone and made the call (to finalize the trade)."

The deal addresses several needs for the club.

"We get ourselves a guy who has played in the CFL for three years," continued Maciocia on Comiskey. "He has played centre, he has played guard.

"He is a proven commodity. He is as tough and as nasty as you are going to come across."

PROBABLE STARTER

In return, Edmonton didn't have to give up a first-round pick next year or any playmaker on the current roster to get a probable starter on the O-line.

However, the Eskimos did have to wave goodbye to Tsoumpas in a very awkward situation.

"Sure, it is awkward," said the coach on the conversation he had to have with the promising 22-year-old right guard.

"On the business side of this, it is a 10 a.m. start (to the draft) and anything can happen until 10 a.m.

"Dimitri is a very good football player.

"He will have an opportunity to start (in Calgary) and will play in this league for a number of years. In order to get the players we got we had to give up a pretty good player (in Tsoumpas)."

The Stamps might have the weakest offensive line in the CFL, meaning the rookie could play this season.

In Edmonton, he likely wouldn't have seen the field this year.

"I think everything happens for a reason," said Tsoumpas. "I'm rolling with the punches."

But his Edmonton-based parents aren't too pleased.

"They were kind of devastated," remarked the Weber State product. "I know my stepdad is a 32-year Eskimos fan."


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