Big shoes to fill, says Esks' new top QB

New Edmonton Eskimos' quarterback Steven Jyles in the Eskimos' dressing room at Commonwealth...

New Edmonton Eskimos' quarterback Steven Jyles in the Eskimos' dressing room at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton , AB on Dec 14, 2011. (PERRY MAH/QMI Agency)

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:46 PM ET

Steven Jyles is back in Edmonton, but he'd like to think of it as being back home.

At least, that's how it was explained to him back in 2007, when former Edmonton Eskimos GM Danny Maciocia traded Jyles to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

"He said, ‘We found you a home here,' " Jyles said during a press confernce in Commonwealth Stadium on Wednesday — two days after current GM Eric Tillman made good on his predecessor's ‘promise' by bringing him back in the biggest (if not the most lopsided) trade the CFL has seen in years.

And for those four seasons in between wearing the Green and Gold, Jyles had set out to learn how to be a quarterback in the CFL.

"I always knew I'd be back one day," said the six-foot-one, 202-pound product of University of Louisiana at Monroe, who began his professional career in Edmonton in 2006. "When I came into the CFL, I didn't have a clue of what CFL football was. I had a chance to learn the game and better myself as a quarterback."

It wasn't a mixed message Maciocia gave him on the way out, either. The Eskimos organization truly liked what they saw way back when. The thing is, there was just no room to groom Jyles into assuming the No. 1 spot that ended up being held for the past decade by future Hall of Fame quarterback Ricky Ray.

Instead, Jyles honed his skills in Saskatchewan for two seasons before moving on to join the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

In both of those stops, Jyles ended up catching the eye of Kavis Reed — now the Eskimos head coach, who was an assistant in Saskatchewan and Winnipeg at the time.

But in those other places, Jyles wasn't necessarily looked upon as a replacement for a long-time established starter like he will be in his return to Edmonton.

Not to mention whatever criticism and high expectations that come with it.

"I believe in Steven's character, I believe in his mental toughness," Reed said. "I've been around him on two different occasions, I know that he's a mentally tough young man so I believe that he will be able to handle that."

And no one knows more than Jyles just how big the shoes are that he will need to fill.

"Yes I do," Jyles said. "Edmonton is the city of, first of all, champions and they have a winning tradition here. And I'm looking forward to keeping that going.

"We lost a great guy here with Ricky Ray. He's a great quarterback. He's the first quarterback I had a chance to watch play and start learning the game of CFL from.

"I'm pretty sure we're going to miss him here, but it's new times now."

New times that, oddly enough, resemble the old times.

When training camp opens in the spring, Jyles will be reunited with college rival Fred Stamps, a receiver who attended Louisiana-Lafayette.

The two became teammates in Edmonton in 2006.

"We did a lot of the scout-team reps and we put up some pretty good numbers on scout team," Jyles recalled, smiling. "So having a chance to finally work with him (will be good) and we get to put some stats in the books in a live game and hopefully break some records."

Fast forward six seasons and the two are now both on top of the depth chart heading into training camp in June.

"It's obviously a situation where Steven will come in as the top guy on the depth chart," Reed said when asked who his starting quarterback is. "That's the way we look at it right now."

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

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