EDMONTON — When Korey Jones came north to the CFL in 2014, the then 25-year-old from the University of Wyoming considered himself a professional football player. When he met J.C. Sherritt, then in his fifth season with the Edmonton Eskimos, he found out what it really means to be a pro.
“When I came up here I had already had a couple of years’ experiences so I already considered myself a pro,” the six-one, 230-pound linebacker said this week. “When I got here and met JC and saw what he does every day it really inspired me to elevate my game and really, truly become a pro.”
Now Jones will try to fill the shoes of Sherritt, who suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the Eskimos’ 30-27 season-opening victory over the B.C. Lions last Saturday. Shoes that Jones acknowledges may not be fillable.
“I try not to think about that because it would just put added pressure on myself,” Jones said of Sherritt’s leadership abilities. “But it’s true, it’s unfillable shoes with the type of leader he is, the type of player he is on the field, and the type of chemistry he has with this defence, with the coaches. That can’t be replaced, bottom line. But that doesn’t mean I can’t step in and do my part, be me and fill the role and that we can’t be successful.”
With Sherritt gone for the season, the Eskimos are counting on Jones to fill the role of the mentor he followed closely during his previous stint in Edmonton and through training camp and the first week of this season. It’s doubly important that Jones succeed with Adam Konar, who started his first CFL game last Saturday. Konar is filling in another linebacker spot after Cory Greenwood was lost for the year after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in training camp.
It’s a lot of expectations for two players scheduled to be backups, but it’s a challenge all pro athletes look forward to meeting.
“We’re conditioned for it, as football players,” Jones said as the Eskimos prepared for their home opener Friday against the Montreal Alouettes. “You’re expected to do the job, you’re responsible to do the job. That’s why you prepare like a pro.”
It’s why Jones said he closely watched everything Sherritt does, on and off the field, in and out of the locker-room.
“JC is a great leader and an unbelievable role model. That’s why I kind of stayed in his hip pocket throughout the week, and in 2015 I did the same thing because he’s a player you learn from. It forces you to prepare like a pro and sets you up for situations like this.”
Jones played two games for B.C. in 2014, 18 games for the Eskimos in 2015 and 13 with Saskatchewan last season, accumulating 43 tackles. He had six after taking over for Sherritt in the second quarter of their game in Vancouver.
Jones said of all the things he learned from Sherritt, probably the most important was how to prepare for game day.
“He’s taught me a lot about the preparation aspect, not just relying on athletic ability and going out there and reacting, but playing the game before the game is played, playing the game Monday through Friday (in practice) and then going out there on Saturday and playing.
“It’s confidence in your preparation, being ready on the mental side of things, getting a picture of what to expect, knowing your opponent.”