Arkee Whitlock is on his way back to marquee form.
The Edmonton Eskimos running back rushed for over 1,000 yards as a rookie in 2009 before being forced to battle injuries, making Saturday's 24-19 win over the Calgary Stampeders as much a personal victory of his own.
"Definitely a little rusty, it's been so long. It's been nearly a year since I had any contact or played, actually," said Whitlock, who injured his foot at McMahon Stadium in the last Labour Day Classic and missed the last half of the 2010 season. "I was a little rusty, but it was a big game that I know that we needed."
But he also knew some limitations would come with not playing a game for over 10 months.
"Being a vet, I was able to -- not lose the game for us -- but try to make plays for us," said Whitlock, who rushed for 56 yards on 10 carries and caught a three-yard pass. "I'm getting there, man. There's a lot of cleaning up to do and we got the victory so we're going to enjoy this one."
On the Eskimos' second series, Whitlock took his first two carries of 2011 for 20 yards to set up a 55-yard touchdown strike to Fred Stamps for a 7-3 lead.
The slotback followed that up with a one-handed grab in tight coverage on the way to a 65-yard touchdown in the second quarter to put the Eskimos ahead 17-5 early.
"That guy's special, he gave us a lot of leeway offensively," Whitlock said. "Those two big plays he made pretty much almost won the game for us.
"I think it put us in position to maintain the lead."
But that was as pretty as it would get for the Eskimos, who found themselves on the receiving end of some big offence from Calgary in the second half.
"It was ugly, but I think as a team we fought hard and we hung in there," said Whitlock. "We didn't let it slip away and that's the difference in itself from previous years when we weren't able to maintain leads.
"I think we did a good job of bowing up at the end and just keeping those guys out of range and making plays on offence."
That is, of course, except for their final play on offence, which saw Whitlock let a touchdown pass from three yards out slip through his hands that would have given the Eskimos a nine-point cushion.
"We couldn't finish there at the end, but I think it was good enough, we got points out of it," said Whitlock, who watched his defence come up with a big stop to hang onto victory. "It was ugly, man. Great finish, great win."