Elizondo relishing chance to work with talented Edmonton roster

EDMONTON — When helping to build the Edmonton Football Team this off-season, head coach Jaime Elizondo referenced a book called The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon. 

In that book, he says that a big portion of it was getting the right people on the bus and getting the wrong people off of it. 

“It all starts with getting to know how each player is as a person. What their work ethic is like, what their habits are like, what their family situation is like, what they do away from the football field,” Elizondo said to 630 CHED’s Morley Scott. “So I’m excited over the next couple of months to get a feel for who these guys are, and then you make that transition to who they are on the field and how they react to situations and communicate with each other. How they react to something positive or negative. 

“…Who are the guys that are moody and make it more about themselves as opposed to making it about the team. That’s really the starting point for building this roster and who makes the team. We don’t want any high-drama coaches or players because it just distracts from trying to win football games. Your energy is spent in the wrong direction.”

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Jaime Elizondo was hired as the head coach of the Edmonton Football Team on Feb. 1. (Walter Tychnowicz/CFL.ca)

Elizondo is still relatively new to his new role with the Football Team. General manager Brock Sunderland thought he was set for the season, but after Scott Milanovich surprisingly stepped down in order to pursue a position in the NFL, the team was in need of a new head coach. 

It didn’t take long for him to name the replacement, as Sunderland admitted that Elizondo was the man he contacted first when the position was open in 2019 after Jason Maas’ dismissal. 

He was announced as the head coach on Feb 1 and immediately got to work alongside Sunderland to build the team how they saw fit through free agency. 

Before his arrival, the team made arguably the signing of the off-season, nabbing star receiver Derel Walker on Jan. 8 to form an incredible pass-catching duo with Greg Ellingson

He was far from their only addition, however. The team was also able to land defensive back Jonathan Rose and offensive lineman Derek Dennis.

On the opening day of free agency, Edmonton also added defensive back Aaron Grymes, running back James Wilder Jr., and linebacker Kevin Brown

Elizondo also announced his staff for the 2021 season on Wednesday. He will serve as the team’s offensive coordinator while Noel Thorpe will be the defensive coordinator. 

The staff remains relatively the same, however, Chris Rippon, James Vollono, and Vincent Campbell have all been brought in as assistants. 

The team looks stronger on paper, but on-field execution will be what Elizondo is looking for, and Edmonton will once again be in an uber-competitive West Division in 2021. 

“When you’re a coach, you’re blessed with the opportunity to coach these guys and hopefully make them better. The first thing we have to do is make them better as players and once a player knows you’re going to make them better, they’re going to open up their trust a little bit more,” Elizondo said. “Just from a detached perspective, having watched Jonathon Mincy for the last couple of years and seeing what he’s done, I’m excited to find out more about him and coach him. Aaron Grymes I think is a guy that will be around in football for years, even after his playing career is done. So I’m excited to work with a guy like him who understands the discipline and the structure that football brings and wants to be made better. 

“I could just go on…Brian Walker, I think he’s got such tremendous upside… and Vontae Diggs. I’m really excited to work with these guys. You look at a skillset of Kwaku (Boateng) and Evan (Machiroda) on the defensive side and a guy like (Mathieu) Betts. They just bring such variety in what they do. I’m excited to work with those players that are highly motivated and really want to build something that’s greater than themselves.” 

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