Former Esk finally makes it

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's taken him XXXIX years to get here.

Way back in 1967, when they held Super Bowl I but weren't calling it that yet, Trent Walters was making $9,500 a year in his second and final season with the Edmonton Eskimos.

The next year he went into coaching. Finally, after all those years he's made it to the great game as coach of the sensational secondary of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Old No. 17 played in the defensive secondary with the likes of Tommy Joe Coffey, Joe Hernandez and John Wydareny. It's a long way from the 1966 and '67 Eskimos to the Super Bowl.

"Neill Armstrong was our head coach. Ray Jauch was my position coach," he remembered as he sat in the stands with the other Eagle assistant coaches.

"I had a great time up there. It was great football.

"In my first year, I was the only player in the league who returned a punt for a touchdown. I remember it was against Calgary. I think it was for maybe 53 or 55 yards," he said of the no-blocking days they used to call the 'suicide squad.' Walters led the CFL in punt returns that year. He also had to step in and replace Jim 'Long Gone' Thomas at running back.

"In those days, if you started on defence, you had to backup a position on offence. I was Tee Thomas's backup running back."

He remembers playing against Gluey Hughie Campbell, who won a Grey Cup with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in '66.

"He always did well against me," Walters laughs.

Walters said he occasionally thought about coaching in Canada but he was never between jobs long enough to take a serious look north in a career which included a nice run from 1994-2001 with the Minnesota Vikings.

"I had two chances to get here coaching with the Vikings," he said of losing two NFC championship games. He didn't get close to a Grey Cup with those Eskimos, although the team made the playoffs both years (6-9-1 in '66 and 9-6-1 in '67) in the only down decade in Eskimos history.

"I went to Edmonton with a plan of becoming a football coach," he said. "I figured if I played pro up there for two or three years and worked on getting my masters in the off-season, I could find a coaching job."

His alma mater gave him one.

Indiana. Louisville. Indiana. Texas A&M. Notre Dame. Washington. Cincinnati. Pittsburgh. Minnesota. He's been all over the college and pro football map, landing with the Eagles last year.

With Brian Dawkins, arguably the best safety in the NFL, and talents like Lito Sheppard to work with, Walters loves his group.

"Dawkins is our leader. He's a strong character guy. He practises hard and plays hard. He's Jekyll and Hyde.

"... Super Bowl or not, this is the most fun I've had coaching football."


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