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Naylor’s Kickoff: Reilly ready to launch new era of Lions football

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TSN Football Insider


Sometimes the stars align at just the right time.

That’s how Mike Reilly is feeling these days – proud of what he gave to the Edmonton Eskimos for six seasons but also overjoyed to be a BC Lion under a new head coach and familiar general manager, and ready to help reignite a franchise.

It’s hard to imagine a better situation for Reilly, living close to his home in Seattle and signed not so much as a saviour but as someone to launch a new era of Lions football following the departure of Wally Buono and several veteran players.

“When I left B.C. and went to Edmonton [in 2013] there was a lot of excitement but also some nervous energy, maybe some anxiety, because are you going into something that is completely unknown,” said Reilly, whose team opens its regular season Saturday night hosting Winnipeg.

“This experience has been a little different because there’s still been that excitement but I didn’t really feel that nervous energy, that anxiety…I kind of knew lay of the land, the facilities, the game-day operations and a lot of the non-football ops people in the building.”

Reilly became the highest-profile CFL free agent to change teams in years, signing a four-year, $3-million deal with the Lions in February. The move reunited him with Ed Hervey, the general manager who’d given him the opportunity to start in Edmonton, and returned the quarterback to the city where his CFL career began.

With so many other changes around him, including the departure of longtime veterans like Solomon Elimimian, Rolly Lumbala and Manny Arceneaux, Reilly was able to quickly assume a leadership position both on the field and in the locker room.

“It didn’t feel like I was the new kid in the room,” he said. “I think just by the nature of our situation, with Ed bringing in a lot of different pieces in, with coach [DeVone] Claybrooks and his staff being new, I kind of felt like I had more of a background with this organization than most of the people on the team. It’s kind of a unique situation.”

While adding a player of Reilly’s status was first and foremost a football decision, the Lions also knew the potential Reilly represented in terms of invigorating the fan base and rebuilding the Lions’ presence in Vancouver. That’s not something every player gets, but Reilly wants to be part of building something larger than just wins and stats.

“What makes our league great and makes fans interested in it is that [players] are more accessible and we do feel like there’s a responsibility for that,” Reilly said. “There are a lot of expectations that come........