July 4, 2012
Eskimos round up class of '09
By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - It’s not exactly the same as the Edmonton Oilers collection of No. 1 picks in the NHL Entry Draft.
They’re not Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov.
But the Edmonton Eskimos are putting together a pretty interesting collection of draft picks themselves.
Instead of collecting No. 1 overall picks like the hockey team, the football club appears to be trying to collect the entire draft class of 2009.
They have, without realizing it, collected four of the eight players picked that year. Five of the top 11.
What other team in the history of pro sport has ever ended up with HALF the first round picks of any given year?
Now Eric Tillman, we all know, can be something of a mad scientist. But even the Eskimos’ GM admits, while it’s very much part of his grand plan, it wasn’t planned.
The grand plan since he arrived has included a priority on dramatically improving the Canadian content. And while you can debate his Ricky Ray trade until the cows come home (and I believe they’ll be home soon when it comes to Steven Jyles), there’s no debating the job Tillman is doing when it comes to assembling young Canadian talent to grow together for the future.
“In all your years covering the CFL, have you ever seen anything like one team, three years removed, having five of the first 11 selections on their squad? It’s really intriguing, isn’t it?” asked Tillman.
“I don’t know if one team has ever put together a collection of top picks from one draft, especially a great draft like that one,” said Kavis Reed.
Offensive lineman Simeon Rottier is the only No. 1 overall draft choice ever to come out of the U of A Golden Bears. He started all 18 games and both playoff games with the Tiger-Cats last year. He was a first-team CIS All-Canadian and one of the two Canadians selected to be part of the 2008 East-West Shrine Bowl.
Etienne Legare is a two-time Vanier Cup winner with Laval who was named winner of the J.P. Metras award as CIS lineman of the year, and joined Rottier as one of the two Canadians invited to play in the 2008 East-West Shrine Bowl. Currently recovering from mono, Legare came to the Eskimos in the trade with Toronto for kicker Noel Prefontaine. He started 15 games for the Eskimos last year.
Matt Carter is a 6-foot-2 wide receiver out of Acadia, a four-time conference All-Star who, like Rottier, spent three years with the Tiger-Cats before coming to the Eskimos as a free agent this year.
Dylan Steenbergen is a 6-foot-5, 300-pound offensive lineman from the University of Calgary Dionsaurs who came to the Eskimos in exchange for two draft picks with the Montreal Alouettes. He was on the injured reserve list for seven games last year but dressed for both playoff games.
Offensive lineman Gord Hinse, 6-foot-4 and 230, made a name for himself when he ended up without his helmet on while he continued to play, inspiring a CFL rule change this year. An All-Canadian with the Edmonton Wildcats in junior football, he was a Canada West CIS All-Star with the U of A Golden Bears who started the last five games at centre last year.
“It really is a collection of the best talent from that draft and I believe all of them will be starters,” said Reed.
Steenbergen will become a starter for the first time in his career Sunday in Saskatchewan.
“This is my fourth year now and becoming a starter has been my goal,” he said.
The plan was to make him a starter right from the start of the season. But the night before the pre-season game against the B.C. Lions, he came down with a virus.
“I lost 12 pounds,” he said.
“I didn’t eat for four days.
“They decided to keep me out of the opener against Toronto while I built my strength back up.”
As for being part of the Eskimos’ special Class of 2009, Steenbergen and the others had no idea until they were asked to pose for a “graduation picture” Wednesday.
“I didn’t know. But that’s pretty cool,” he said.
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The Eskimos 2009 Five:
1. Simeon Rottier (drafted by Hamilton)
2. Etienne Legare (drafted by Toronto)
5. Matt Carter (drafted by British Columbia)
7. Dylan Steenbergen (drafted by Montreal)
11. Gord Hinse (drafted by Edmonton)