ALL SYSTEMS GO
Jovan Santos-knox finally ready for Esks debut
There’s good things that come to those who wait, and then there’s Jovan Santos-knox.
The Edmonton Eskimos, who snapped up the high profile outside linebacker back in off-season free agency, are finally going to see how good he is Saturday against the visiting B.C. Lions (5 p.m., TSN, 630 CHED).
It’s not like they don’t have a pretty good idea already. But the Eskimos haven’t had a chance to see the former Winnipeg Blue Bombers standout in regular-season action yet this year thanks to a foot injury suffered in last year’s finale.
“It’s been a long journey, definitely a test of my patience, but overall, I just think it made me a hungrier, better person and better player out of this,” said Santos-knox, a 25-year-old Massachusetts product who will be making his first start of 2019 on the same field at Commonwealth Stadium where his 2018 campaign ended due to injury. “I don’t think I figured out how much I love this game until I went through this little thing.
“I’ve been itching all year to get out here, so it’s great to be able to come in during such an important time for this team and hopefully make an impact.”
It’s an important time, alright, as the Eskimos need all hands on deck to earn a win that would secure the sixth and final playoff spot.
At the same time, rookie linebacker Vontae Diggs, who filled the starting role pencilled in next to Santos-knox’s name since training camp, has been Edmonton’s top playmaker the past three weeks, earning 22 tackles, a sack, an interception and two pass knockdowns.
Both are expected to dress Saturday.
“I would love to go out there and run down the field with my young buck and cause some chaos,” said Santos-knox, who immediately took Diggs under his wing. “He’s been playing great, especially for his first year, the way he’s been able to catch on so fast. I’m just so proud of him and everything he does and the man he is.
“Hopefully we can just continue to go out there together.”
Up until now, Santos-knox has been living vicariously through the rookie out of Connecticut.
“Absolutely, he knows it. We get in here early and look over film together, so I was playing through him in a sense and he knew it and he just embraced it so well,” Santos-knox said. “As a young guy, to be able to take that leadership from other guys and not push it away, but actually embrace it, it just shows how mature he is for his age.
“He’s got a bright future ahead of him, for sure.”
But there is only room for one to start next to inside linebacker Larry Dean on Saturday, and Santox-knox is eagerly awaiting the chance to fill that role in his Eskimos debut.
“He should be, it’s been a long off-season and a long season for him not being able to do something he loves to do,” said Eskimos head coach Jason Maas. “You can obviously tell by the way he attacks every day and the way he’s out here moving around. He loves football and is excited about the grind, which is always a great thing. His energy is contagious, as well.
“He is a great football player. There is a reason we signed him in the off-season with high expectations and I think the longer you have to wait for something, the more it means and the better you feel about it. I’m sure all the energy that’s been pent up over this many weeks is going to be all laid out in that game.”
Accompanying the team on a 10-day trip through the East Division, Santos-knox had been considered to play last week against the league-leading Hamilton Tiger-cats.
“He was expecting to play and didn’t play, and he took it out on us in practice,” Maas said. “Just the way he attacked it, he attacked it even more. We had a talk after that, like: ‘Man, you’ve still got to be a great teammate and do all those things. The energy was fantastic, you’ve just got to channel it the right way.’
“He understood that, came back and hand another great practice. And he’s ready, I think that’s all we wanted to see.”
IN AND OUT
SB Greg Ellingson returned to active duty after sitting out the first two practices of the week due to a leg injury suffered last Friday against Hamilton … RB C.J. Gable, WR Tevaun Smith, CB Anthony Orange and CB Josh Johnson remain out.