Wiltshire wary of an Ottawa upset

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

EDMONTON -- Kelly Wiltshire knows firsthand how an underdog Renegades team can sneak into town and rain ugly all over the parade that is the home side's season opener.

He played out the scene in Renegades colours a year ago.

"You're scaring me now," Wiltshire, the new Eskimos safety, told a reporter yesterday when reminded of details leading up to and around the 37-25 beating Ottawa delivered the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Canad Inns Stadium in Week 1 of the 2004 CFL schedule. "We had really good team unity at the beginning of the season. We believed."

The Renegades went on to win the next two games as well before injuries and front-office distractions pushed them off the path to success.

Over the winter, there were players who wanted out as well as those who were not wanted back.

Wiltshire, defensive end Tim Fleiszer and fullback Mike Maurer are the starting Canadians who escaped the nation's capital via the free-agent route for Edmonton in the off-season. All three will be in green and gold tonight trying to prevent the Renegades from pulling off their second straight upset in a season lid lifter.

"Definitely, it can happen if we let it happen," Wiltshire, who now wears No. 31 because his favourite No. 1 hangs in honour of Warren Moon at Commonwealth Stadium. "We're going to play our best football (tonight) and we've talked about (not taking the Renegades lightly) every day. We have to have a lets-not-wait attitude and come out firing on all cylinders. It's up to us to decide how good a team we want to be."

Most prognosticators are picking the Esks to finish second in the West behind the B.C. Lions. Under new coach Danny Maciocia, they have a whopping 18 new players on their roster, many of whom are veterans.

Wiltshire, who was dubbed Mr. Renegade when he became the first name player Ottawa signed upon its return to the CFL in 2002, says his experience allows him to keep tonight's game against his old team in perspective.

"It's going to be sweet, but I'm not putting too much into it," said Wiltshire. "This is my fourth uniform. I could fight that battle every week if I wanted. Ottawa was special, it was nice. But I want (a championship) now."

Maurer, who was the Renegades starting fullback for three years, left to be closer to his family. He has two kids, ages 2 and 4, and a wife who is a school vice-principal in Regina.

"I was just tired of not being able to see them so much," he said yesterday. "The kids grow up so fast. Now I'm a seven-hour drive away, or just a one-hour flight. When we get two days off, I can be home just like that. The flight (from Ottawa to Regina) is five or six times more expensive."

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Maurer is really looking forward to playing the Renegades, because, he says, it'll make him feel like a kid again.

"It doesn't seem like a job (when playing against friends), it's almost like you're in the schoolyard again. It takes you back."

Fleizer, who spent two years with the Renegades, will see regular duty on an Edmonton line that uses a full rotation. He'll also be a special teams factor, as he was in Ottawa.

The Eskimos, he says, are unlike other clubs he has played for in that they truly emphasize the importance of all three phases of the game -- offence, defence and special teams -- and that the starters in Edmonton are key kick return and coverage contributors.

Fleiszer says playing against his old team won't provide him with extra incentive.

"The fans in Ottawa were incredible, they treated me fantastic," he said. "I loved my time there."


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