Esks linebackers step it up

GERRY MODDEJONGE, Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:03 PM ET

A career-high seven touchdowns and his second interception return for a touchdown in as many games led to Rod Davis being named the CFL’s defensive player of the week.

But it’s an award he’s happy to share with his teammates and coaches.

“It’s especially good when we get a win,” said the Edmonton Eskimos linebacker. “The player of the week is an individual award, but it’s more of a team thing because if I didn’t have those other 11 guys out there I wouldn’t have been in the right spot to make the right plays.”

Davis credits his recent success to his new linebackers coach, Mark Nelson, who has helped hone his preparation and film study.

“Because I wasn’t a good player, as I started coaching more — let’s be honest, the great players you don’t coach, you just let them play — the other guys that are really good players, now you help them,” said Nelson, who has replaced former linebacker player and coach Dan Kepley. “The interception by Rod, that was a great play because he knew he had to show a little bit in the B gap because of the run threat, but he knew that’s the hole where the quarterback is going to throw to.

“He took a great angle, made a great catch, made a great play and that play kind of set a little better tempo for the defence.”

In short, the linebackers have become the backbone of the Eskimos defence after losing starter Mark Restelli for most of the season due to injury.

“As a linebacking group, our guys are working hard and we’re trying to get better each week,” said Nelson. “It’s a gradual process that we’ll continue each week.”

STAR STRUCK: It might be a bit of a stretch, but Nelson might actually have given up the silver screen for the gridiron.

You wouldn’t know it with the scruffy, playoff-stretch stubble he’s sporting, but the coach and former player has often been compared to a Hollywood star.

“Over the years, a lot of people say that, ‘You look like Nick Nolte,’ or ‘You sound like him,’ ” said Nelson. “The last picture I saw of Nick Nolte, I don’t know if that’s a very nice compliment because he didn’t look very good.”

But will Nelson ever trade in film study for a film career?

“I’m glad you asked that question. I was very disappointed back in the early ’80s. I should have won a best-supporting actor,” he said. “I wasn’t nominated, but when you go back and look at the movie Superman 3, I’m not bragging but at about the seven or eight minute mark of the film you’ll see myself and my wife walking down the street in Calgary.

“There’s about a three-second — well, a two-and-a-half-second — clip that we’re on the big screen there. We did a hell of a job and I thought that carried the movie. I was very disappointed and after that I just kind of shied away from movies and went into coaching.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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