EDMONTON - He was the first overall draft pick in 2006.
But Adam Braidwood wasn’t the Edmonton Eskimos’ first choice to start this season, after spending the past two years away from football.
The defensive lineman made his first start since 2007 in Friday’s 28-25 win over the visiting B.C. Lions.
With a pair of knee surgeries behind him, Braidwood was eager to test himself not only physically, but the mental side of his game as well.
And he passed with flying colours.
“He played solidly,” said Eskimos head coach and defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall. “He showed us that he’s back to being able to play this game, that he feels confident even though he’s played a different position.
“He’s playing aggressive, he’s playing physical and what we thought of Adam Braidwood prior to this game, we saw it on the football field. He lasted and he felt good about his performance, so all he’s going to do is get better each week that he plays.”
While focused on improvement, Braidwood said he is not worried about getting back to his 2007 form.
“I don’t want to go back to my old form, I want to get better,” said Braidwood, who has moved from the end to an inside position at tackle. “I feel like I have been put in a position where I can probably excel a little bit more than I did at end. I think I’m better suited inside.”
So does Eskimos defensive line coach Mike Walker.
“He came in and played responsible football. He was where he was supposed to be every time and he made a few plays,” said Walker. “With him and Dario (Romero) in there, we’ve got some fire that we’ve been needing.
“These guys are veterans, they’re hungry and their fire brings a whole new atmosphere to our defence.”
It is a return to his roots for Braidwood, who played under Walker in college at Washington State.
“I was just waiting on the right time and we knew that he had to get mentally ready with his knee and everything,” Walker said. “It was just a matter of time. He played really good, hopefully he can keep it going.”
And Braidwood has been in the league long enough to know what that takes.
“The coaches who have been around know what I can do once I am in there,” Braidwood said. “I just had to show that I really wanted it and I was working really hard. In this league, you’ve got to prove everything.
“It’s one of those things, you’ve got to get out there and play in the game and then play well. This team isn’t looking for guys just to get the job done or just kind of be in their gap, they’re looking for playmakers. They’re looking for guys that want to win because that’s the difference between an average team and a championship team, when you have a whole group of guys who want to win and will do whatever it takes.”