In mid-January, the Edmonton Elks made one of the biggest off-season signings in the CFL by bringing back All-Star receiver Derel Walker.
Finally on Monday, Walker made his return to the green and gold after completing his seven-day quarantine.
“It’s amazing… a lot of differences, a lot of different nuances and a lot of different teammates,” Walker said.
“There’s a lot of guys who I played with in Toronto (in 2019) and a few guys I played with here previously and management.
“It’s amazing to be back here especially with all of the things guys had to overcome in this last year.”
It’s the third stint with Edmonton for Walker, who played the 2019 season with Toronto Argonauts.
During his previous time in green and gold, Walker recorded 4,208 yards and 26 touchdowns. He helped Edmonton to a Grey Cup title in 2015, when he was also named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie. He’s three-time West Division All-Star, two-time CFL All-Star and was named an East Division All-Star in 2019.
Walker was more of a spectator on Monday, talking part in only individual drills, but head coach Jamie Elizondo says his presence was very much felt.
“It’s great. It starts with who he is as a person and he has a great personality,” Elizondo said.
“He’s been in tune with all of the meetings and so right off the bat, he’s been asking a lot of questions. When you miss all of those meetings and not being in the same room, you’re just taking notes and absorbing everything on a Zoom meeting.
“He had a lot of questions, which is good, but it felt great to have him back.”
Walker was a late arrival after taking care of some personal business at home.
He said it was good to watch up close Monday before his workload increases throughout the rest of training camp. While he was in quarantine, he was able to take part in meetings virtually, which Walker says was good stimulation for him to break up the monotony.
“I’m a student of the game. There’s a little bit of a grey area watching it on Zoom. I really don’t get all the little coaching that I always instill within the players on certain plays, formations, and routes”, Walker said.
“Just being able to attend the meetings and hear some of those things, it helps a lot. Also, studying the playbook on my own but now I’m able to get back with the guys and able to make mores sense the terms.”
Also making their first appearance after going through quarantine were offensive lineman Justin Renfrow and Thaddeus Coleman, who is back for a third time with the green and gold since making his first appearance in Edmonton back in training camp of 2008.
Edmonton Elks OL Thaddeus Coleman on being back for third time, first was back in training camp in 2008.
89 Diego Viamontes WR 5’10 189 pounds 30 Mayas CDMX
Diego Viamontes likes Edmonton. That’s good because the pandemic kept him and his new family here over the last year.
“We were just married and we were starting a family and we decided to make our home here.”
Viamontes and his wife have started a business here with some other Mexican partners – the CH Cafeteria – specializing in coffee and chocolate treats.
Unsure if he would they would be able to return after the pandemic because of border closures, they decided to stayed in Edmonton. Staying meant they could keep working at the cafeteria, but it also meant that daughter Lua would be born in Edmonton, and she was in October of last year.
“It was thrilling. We love that she was born here. It’s a good story.”
Dad is also a good story: the first overall pick in the inaugural CFL Global draft in 2019, dressed for two late season games in 2019 — he didn’t register any offensive stats but Viamontes did return three kick offs for a total of 44 yards in the regular season finale in Saskatchewan.
The 30 year old has great speed and has shown good hands in practice and is now waiting for the chance to show them off in a game. In his second training camp, he is taking nothing for granted in the CFL.
“I play every day like it’s the last day I am putting a helmet on.”
The Elks made 11 roster cuts on Monday to get to required 75 players not including non-counters (CFL Draft picks). The following players were released:
REC Rodney Smith
OL Kwabena Asare
REC Shakier Ryan
RB Marvin Kinsey
REC Jerry Louis-McGee
DB Tevaughn Grant
DL Devonte Holden
DL Mat Boesen
LB Ethan Aguayo
DL Chei Hill
LB Antonio Jones-Davis
The Elks next training camp session is scheduled for Tuesday morning on The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium pending the air quality.