HAMILTON — Derel Walker may be new to the Toronto Argonauts organization, but he has already defined the identity of his new team, using one word.
“I see a lot of championship mindsets,” said Walker, while speaking to reporters following the Argonauts 30-23 win preseason win, Thursday against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“We preach that every day and that’s what it’s going to be all the time. I feel like we have a championship mindset every day and we’re going to be something special this year.
Although Walker and his Argonaut teammates have competed in only two CFL preseason games, winning both, the 2015 Grey Cup champion with the Edmonton Eskimos believes his new team has the ability to replicate his former club’s success.
The CFL’s most outstanding rookie in 2015 was highly sought after as a free agent this past off season and eventually decided to move to Toronto on a one-year, $275,000 contract, the highest in the league for a non-quarterback.
With the season opener just over two weeks away, Walker laid out his biggest challenge during the exhibition schedule and his feeling now that it’s over.
“The most difficult part is not knowing the playbook right away and being frustrated with that,” said the two time CFL All-Star. “But as of right now it’s starting to settle in and feel comfortable.
“It doesn’t matter which QB is in there, this offence is going to be good.”
After the retirement of legendary quarterback Ricky Ray, the Argos named James Franklin as their starting quarterback, but their depth at the position has created some discussion as to who should get the start nod under centre.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson went 11 for 17, on 222 yards through the air and a touchdown in Hamilton, and connected with Walker on a couple of key plays that included a 75-yard touchdown pass.
Dat boi @Dee_Sky_Walker
— Toronto Argonauts (@TorontoArgos) June 7, 2019
Argos’ head coach Corey Chamblin has not had an opportunity to evaluate his quarterback situation but won’t waver on who his starter is for the opening matchup.
“I need to evaluate more because I’m calling the defence, in a rhythm and trying to manage the game more than seeing how someone else is,” said Chamblin. “I didn’t really look at his game tonight but regardless we have a 1A and 1B—but James is our starter.
“It’s good for us, we have two guys who are growing in this system and hopefully we never need to see both of them, but that’s pro football, the more quarterbacks you have the more opportunity you have to reach that final stage in this game.
A Grey Cup final is still months away, yet championship aspirations still run throughout the locker room as the season approaches from Walker, Chamblin and Argos’ back up QB Bethel-Thompson.
“We have to win this year,” said Bethel-Thompson. “We have all the weapons, all the tools and it doesn’t matter who [the quarter back] is, the goal is for us to win now, win early, win throughout the season and win a Grey Cup.
“We just got to play efficient ball.”