EDMONTON - Once an Eskimo, always an Eskimo.
It's what was on the sign above Jason Maas's head as he walked out of the dressing room at Commonwealth Stadium for the last time as a player, after signing a one-day contract to retire in Green and Gold.
"I think so. I mean, I've heard it since I've been here and I've always felt like an Eskimo, whether I've been here or not," said the 11-year veteran, who spent all but two CFL seasons with Edmonton.
After being cut loose on Feb. 22, Maas initially turned down an opportunity to retire with the team in hopes of joining another over the off-season.
"I wasn't fielding a lot of offers from CFL clubs," said Maas, who seemed to be a backup plan at best as teams waited to see how injuries would shake down during the season. "If I just kept waiting and didn't retire, maybe somebody calls but maybe they don't. I just wasn't willing to stand by idly and wait."
But neither was he willing to just toss in the towel without exploring his opportunities.
"Leaving this last time, out of the nine years I was here, that was the hardest day of being an Eskimo," said Maas. "Today is hopefully rectifying that and it makes me feel a whole lot better about being an Eskimo again.
"I honestly have no regrets in my career. Basically the person I am today is because of everything that went wrong, everything that went right."
Lately, there's been too much of the former, and none of the latter.
"The last three years, personally, football's been something that's not made me completely happy, either," Maas said. "I love the relationships that I've built. But the day-to-day grind in football for me, not playing every week and doing all the work but not getting to play. The last five years, football has been very difficult for me."
But before that, Maas was able to experience the height of the sport not often reached by a quarterback. Before leaving in 2006 to pursue a starting role in Hamilton, Maas lived every backup quarterback's dream when he came in not once, but twice in relief of Ricky Ray in the playoffs to spark comeback wins on the way to the 2005 Grey Cup.
"That's what I was here for and that's what I played for as a professional, was that one moment," Maas said. "It didn't happen enough, to play 11 years and have that time happen only once in your career. But it's better than it never happening, so I'll take it.
"If there was one moment that defined my career, it would probably be that moment. When people come up to me and say anything to me, generally it's: 'Thanks for the 2005 Grey Cup.' And that's six years ago."
Even before then, Maas felt at home in Edmonton.
"I've made my home here. I'm one of the few American guys that lived here. I've spent my last 10 winters up here and lived in Edmonton and breathed Edmonton — even though I lived in Sherwood Park," he smiled. "It's been a hard couple years with turnover and losing a lot of games. Football's not a lot of fun when you're losing and not playing.
"Now I'm not doing it, I've had a lot more happy days. But I definitely will miss it."
And thanks for the 2005 Grey Cup.