Culberson making CFL transition

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:08 AM ET

EDMONTON - Kavis Reed expects Quinton Culberson to be around for a while.

For that reason, the Edmonton Eskimos head coach told the rookie linebacker to shave in order to look presentable for when the media start requesting interviews.

And while Culberson has flown under the media radar so far during training camp, it’s expected the Mississippi State product will garner plenty of attention once play kicks off in the CFL.

“He’s a very athletic young man, who has a lot of ability,” said Reed. “He’s very intelligent, he has the ability to get from sideline to sideline very fast. I just have to make certain that shaving is a priority around here.

“He has the ability to be here for a long time and I want to make certain that he understands the professional environment and those little things do count.”

A native of Jackson, Miss., Culberson, 25, was brought in by the Eskimos as a free agent. The six-foot-one, 236-pound middle linebacker is expected to challenge for a starting spot this season.

“Being in Canada and in Edmonton, it’s a wonderful thing for me to be playing football again after having a year off,” Culberson said. “I’m very happy for the opportunity.

“We have a great group of guys. Everybody enjoys being here, everybody talks to everybody. We don’t have any snobby guys or anything like that. Everybody is bonding well, I’m really happy to be part of this team.”

Following an outstanding college career, Culberson moved on to play in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams, making the team as an undrafted rookie in 2007.

Culberson played 14 games with the Rams that season, then went on to play 16 the following year, with 10 starts.

He was released at the start of the 2009 campaign and went to play with the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League before signing with the Carolina Panthers towards the end of the year.

Last season, Culberson waited around for a call that never came and sat out the year.

When the call came from the Eskimos, Culberson jumped at the opportunity.

“I didn’t know much about the CFL,” Culberson said. “The only thing I knew was the motion of the receivers. I didn’t know how big the field was, I didn’t know it was an extra 15 yards wide, that makes a big difference.

“I came here blind, but I’m learning and I think I’m picking it up pretty well.”

The Eskimos expect Culberson to be a big part of their new four-three scheme this season. So far, he’s looked at home at the heart of the Eskimos defence.

“Once I learn the defensive schemes like the back of my hand, I think things will be easier for me and I’ll be able to go out and make a lot of plays,” Culberson said. “Once I learn the defensive schemes better, I think I’ll be able to play better and things will come easier to me.”

Culberson will be in the Eskimos lineup on Friday when the club travels to Regina to take on the Roughriders in the first exhibition game of the season.

“I’m anxious to play, but a little nervous, though,” Culberson admitted. “I’ve heard it should be a good atmosphere, but we’ll see when I get out there.”

Despite being a rookie to the league, the Eskimos expect Culberson to make a quick adjustment to the CFL game.

The different rules and larger field usually have a bigger effect on defensive backs than those who line up closer to the line of scrimmage.

“As a linebacker, all I have to do is run to the ball,” Culberson said. “If you have that natural go and that natural spunk to run to the ball, it should be easy for you.”

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