ALL SYS­TEMS GO

Jo­van San­tos-knox fi­nally ready for Esks de­but

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - GERRY MODDEJONGE gmod­de­[email protected] @Sun­mod­de­jonge

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.

POSTMEDIA file

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