Esks' Whitlock knows nothing's a lock

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:49 PM ET

EDMONTON - Arkee Whitlock has come a long way since last year’s training camp — 1,293 yards, to be exact.

The sophomore CFL running back has returned to the Edmonton Eskimos where he is looking to earn back the starting role.

But just one year ago, that position was getting geared up for non-import Jesse Lumsden, forcing Whitlock to watch the first regular-season game from the reserve list.

When Lumsden went down with a shoulder injury in the season opener, Whitlock found himself bumped into the No. 1 spot. He made the most of his rookie CFL season by averaging 6.1 yards on each of his 211 carries for 12 touchdowns in 17 games. He became the first 1,000-yard rusher on the Eskimos since Troy Davis in 2006.

“It’s (quite) a transition in a year, but I think as the year went on the transition already started,” said Eskimos head coach Richie Hall. “He knew that we weren’t going to go back to a non-import situation in the middle of the season because we didn’t have the personnel to do it.

“To me, his outlook coming into this year is just continuing where it left off last year. The biggest difference is he’s coming in here now with 18 games of experience so his confidence level is different right now than it was this time last year.”

But Whitlock doesn’t see it as his spot to lose in training camp.

“I think it’s anybody’s spot, the same way I came in last year,” he said. “After being in the league for a year, I do know nothing’s guaranteed. I have to come out and prove that I am capable of being the player that I was last year — at least that.

“To my teammates, I owe it to show them that I can get better.”

Getting better was a theme that consistently reappeared for Whitlock last season, which began slow but gained momentum as the Eskimos ground game found its legs.

“For me, it was a learning experience last year, and confidence-wise it’s a better feeling,” he said. “Just to come back and see the guys you went to war with last year was more exciting for me.”

He’s also given the fans something to be excited about in the rushing column.

“I think it helped balance us out as a team and it took a lot of pressure off of different situations in a game,” Whitlock said. “To be a good team, I think you have to be able to run the ball sometimes.”

FAMILY PRIDE: With best friend and 2009 East Division Rookie of the Year Jonathan Hefney pursuing an NFL career as a safety with the Detroit Lions, Whitlock said his interests remain with the Eskimos.

“As a family, we’re very proud of him. He’s worked hard and deserves the opportunity,” said Whitlock, a former Minnesota Vikings running back.

Both players were their team’s nominee for Rookie of the Year, but Whitlock won’t be following in Hefney’s footsteps anytime soon.

“He’s been in that business before, I’ve been in that business before, we know how it goes. Hopefully everything works out,” Whitlock said. “Right now, I’m an Eskimo and I have business here to do.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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