Lumsden returns to birthplace

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

A 22-year-old small photo is up on the fridge in Neil Lumsden's kitchen.

When you look close, it's two-year-old Jesse with his legendary father at Commonwealth Stadium during an intra-squad game in 1984.

Until tonight, that was the last time Jesse had put a foot on the famed grass in the Eskimos' home.

"Isn't it interesting how things happen," said Neil, who won three Grey Cups during his six years - 1980-85 - as an Edmonton fullback.

Quite frankly, it's very strange how things have transpired - and there are so many strange levels to tonight's Hamilton-Edmonton tilt, which will feature the 2006 Ticat debut of 24-year-old Jesse in the backfield.

- Jesse is returning to his birthplace - Edmonton - and to the stadium where he fooled around as a little tyke.

- He could play a very big role as the Tabbies' starting running back in ending the 34-year playoff streak of his father's beloved team.

- And Eskimo linebacking coach Danny Kepley - his father's close friend - helps with the defensive schemes to deny Hamilton's run game.

"I'm just glad to be playing again," said Jesse, who recently returned from a training -camp stint in the NFL.

"(But) it does have some sentimental value coming back to Edmonton, being my birthplace.

"When I looked in the locker-room (at Commonwealth yesterday) I kind of had that eerie feeling that I have been here before - about 20 years ago."

IN THE HOT TUB

Jesse remembers being in the hot tub in the Eskimo dressing room. He also remembers his home in Sherwood Park before he moved east to Ontario when he was about six.

"We backed onto a golf course (possibly the Broadmoor in Sherwood Park) and I sold CFLPA towels and hats to the guys crossing over to the back nine to make some money as a kid," he recalled.

Always wanting to play professional football, Jesse's first word while growing up was - "ball."

"I swear," said Jesse.

"I found out because it was in one of those baby books."

Jesse will likely be fed a steady diet of the ball tonight, with his father watching on TV in Eastern Canada while trying not to cheer for his old team.

Still an unabashed supporter of the Green and Gold, Neil has endured plenty of frustration this year.

"It is a tough thing to watch (right now)," said Neil, a Rogers Sportsnet football analyst based in the Hamilton area.

"I said this on the air at (Sportsnet): I don't apologize for playing for the Eskimos or being an Eskimo still.

"And I feel the frustration (the Esks go through).

"Even though those aren't the players I played with, but guys like Danny Maciocia - who I know well - and Danny Kepley and Hugh Campbell, there are still a lot of common threads there when I was a player there."

And tonight, Kepley's linebacking crew has to stuff Jesse.

"I can promise you that if one of our linebackers happens to hit Jesse and he stays down for a while, I'll hear from Donna, (Jesse's) mother," joked Kepley.

"And I am a lot more afraid of Donna than Neil."

JOKING ASIDE

All joking aside, Jesse seems to have star quality written all over him after a short CFL stint last year when he averaged 5.1 yards per carry.

"Jesse is going to be a very good back in this league for years," said Maciocia.

"He can get to the perimeter and beat you. He can beat you between the tackles."

The Eskimos are just hoping he doesn't beat them tonight.


Videos

Photos