Former CFL MOP Elimimian back healthy for B.C. Lions after devastating injury - InfoNews

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Former CFL MOP Elimimian back healthy for B.C. Lions after devastating injury

Saskatchewan Roughriders' quarterback Kevin Glenn (5) is tackled by B.C. Lions' Solomon Elimimian after rushing with the ball during the first half of a CFL football game in Vancouver on July 10, 2015. Elimimian had everyone's attention. Back on the field at training camp after suffering a career-threatening injury last season, the standout linebacker for the B.C. Lions was given the floor to share a few words after one of the team's practices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
June 02, 2016 - 12:18 PM

KAMLOOPS, B.C. - Solomon Elimimian had everyone's attention.

Back on the field at training camp after suffering a career-threatening injury last season, the standout linebacker for the B.C. Lions was given the floor to share a few words after one of the team's practices.

"You don't want to take anything for granted. That was my message to the guys," said Elimimian. "Every time you come out here it's an opportunity. It's important to seize those opportunities because at some point those opportunities are no longer available to us."

The CFL's most outstanding player in 2014 thought his time as a professional football player might have run out last August when he ruptured his Achilles tendon in a game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

For a powerful athlete who relies on agility and a quick first step to shed blocks and track down opponents, it was a devastating blow to both body and mind.

"Some guys don't come back from it and some guys do," said Elimimian, the first pure defensive performer to receive the league's highest individual accolade. "I'm not going to lie, the first six weeks not being able to walk and being in bed, depression kind of set in.

"At some point I just shook it off and said: 'If I put in the work I know I can come back.'"

The 29-year-old moved home to Los Angeles to do his rehabilitation, which consisted of about 3 1/2 hours of daily work on his Achilles before moving onto football-related training.

"When a player has that kind of injury it's always a very difficult road," said Lions head coach and general manager Wally Buono. "To Solly's credit he stayed positive and I know he worked extremely hard.

"These kinds of injuries are not only physically tough, but they're also emotionally and psychologically tough to deal with."

B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay, who remembers Elimimian's first camp with the club seven years ago, knows all about the journey his fellow veteran has faced.

Lulay separated his throwing shoulder in 2013 before re-injuring the joint the following season, a situation that also could have derailed his career.

"An Achilles is a serious injury. It's one that scares us," said Lulay. "When we hear that diagnosis everyone just takes a deep breath.

"I had a shoulder dislocation on a throwing shoulder as a quarterback. That's a (potential) career-ender. I've been fortunate my body's come back to the spot where I can play and play at a high level for my guys. I really hope the same for Solly, and I believe that."

The Lions were 3-3 when Elimimian went down last season, but including the game where he was injured, went just 4-8 the rest of the way before a fourth straight one-and-done playoff.

The defence was poor against the run, and while fellow linebacker Adam Bighill picked up as much slack as he could, the loss of Elimimian was a turning point.

"He brings aggression. He's one of the best in the league at what he does," said defensive back Ryan Phillips. "That's something we need. It was a missing link for us last year."

While the club suffered on the field without the six-foot, 225-pound Elimimian — who finished with 143 defensive tackles and 151 total tackles, both CFL records, in 2014 to go along with five sacks — his voice was equally missed in the locker-room.

"He's a presence," said defensive co-ordinator Mark Washington. "He's a leader in every sense."

Elimimian said watching the Lions struggle made his situation even more difficult.

"You don't play this game just to play this game," he said. "You don't play for cheques. You play to win.

"If you're not winning, the mood, the morale is down. Even if you're not playing you still feel the morale."

Elimimian knows there will be doubters — they have been there most of his career — and he expects nothing less in this next chapter.

"I've heard: 'He'll never be the same. Can he come back?'" he said. "It's just motivation, but I've learned throughout the years it's not about trying to prove people wrong, but to prove myself right."

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News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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