The theme this year for the BC Lions was unveiled to the team at the first general meeting of training camp – 5:01. As of 5:01 pm on June 2, head coach Mike Benevides declared that the season had started, the Lions were former champions and that it was time to get to work.
Days before the season opener, the Lions’ locker room is abuzz with excitement and laughter, as the new team gels in preparation for the start of a new season.
With a new season come new beginnings. For the rookies, it’s a new experience. For the veterans, it’s about playing again, whether starting on a new team or jumping into a new role.
Rookie third quarterback Thomas DeMarco is excited for the new opportunity, achieving a long-desired goal.
“It’s been basically my dream my whole life [to play football]. Sometimes I still can’t believe it, but it’s exciting to come to work every day.”
DeMarco captained Old Dominion University’s first football team in 70 years, leading the Monarchs to a 27-8 record in his three years with the team. He graduated from ODU with an MBA in Business Management, but DeMarco is happy to be working in another area.
“[I’m looking forward to] just becoming a pro. It’s one thing to play in college, when you have classes and all this other stuff. Now, my job is football. It’s exciting and I’m just trying to perfect my trade,” he said.
As for learning more about the CFL game, DeMarco is looking to the veterans.
“I learned a lot in camp and I’m getting more comfortable with the little things here and there,” he said. “Right now, if you see me, I’m following Travis [Lulay] and Mike [Reilly] around, and I’m like, ‘Hey, once I learn it, I won’t be right behind you anymore!’”
Courtney Taylor is also trying to pick up whatever he can when it comes to learning about Canadian football. He’s not new to being a professional, having played with the Seattle Seahawks in the past, but Taylor was forced to take a break from the game due to being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Now in remission and prepared to play, Taylor is anxious to get back out on the field.
“My health is good, I’m feeling good, feeling more comfortable with the offence. I’m just going to keep pushing myself to become a better player.”
“It’s been a long time coming for me since the last time I actually made a squad. When I got the news, I was excited,” said Taylor. “What I’m looking forward to the most is just getting out and playing in front of these fans. There are some pretty crazy fans out there, and people follow this game and this team really well.”
Fans that follow the Lions know that dominating middle linebacker Solomon Elimimian has left the team to try out a career in NFL. Adam Bighill is ready to step in and fill in at the starting role.
“[Elimimian] did leave big shoes to fill, but the game of football doesn’t change. There’s still a job to be done and I know I can do it,” he said.
Not having seen a lot of playing time last year, the second-year Lion is leaping at the opportunity to demonstrate what he can do on the field.
“Now that I’m having some opportunity to play, I definitely feel like I can make big plays and I’m starting to show that,” said Bighill. “I want to be a guy who’s known as consistent at doing his job all the time and when those big plays come, I’m going to make them.”
He’ll get that chance on Friday against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, alongside DeMarco and Taylor, who wrapped up the feeling in the dressing room nicely:
“If you’re not nervous, you’re not ready. Of course I’m nervous, but I’m ready.”