KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Solomon Elimimian isn’t close to being satisfied.
Sure he was named the CFL’s outstanding player in 2014 — a first for a full-time defender — but the B.C. Lions had an otherwise disappointing campaign, stumbling to a 9-9 regular-season before an embarrassing playoff loss.
Coming off a record-breaking 143-tackle performance, the hard-hitting linebacker is eager to put in even more work to get both his team and himself back on top.
“I’ve got a lot left,” the 28-year-old said at training camp this week. “I have high goals, personal goals, for myself and the team. We want to win the Grey Cup first, No. 1, but I also want to be the best player again.
“That’s just something that’s in my mindset and I’m going to work hard every day to accomplish that goal.”
Lions head coach Jeff Tedford, who was hired in December, is getting his first look at Elimimian in person and sees what the rest of the league has known for a while.
“He’s a great player,” said Tedford. “He’s very gifted, a great leader, runs to the ball, very smart guy, has great instincts to play the game.”
Those instincts helped keep B.C.’s head above water for long stretches last year after a number of key injuries crippled the team’s attack. That put a lot of pressure on a defence that was simply on the field too much and eventually crumbled, with the low point coming in that 50-17 playoff defeat to the Montreal Alouettes.
“The biggest thing for us is just to be great every game,” said Elimimian. “We have a lot of goals for our defence and one is to be the best.”
Along with fellow linebacker Adam Bighill, the Lions rewarded Elimimian with a contract extension through 2017 in the off-season. But that doesn’t mean he feels comfortable.
“You always have to take this job very seriously because there’s guys that always want your job,” said Elimimian, who was also voted the CFL’s top defensive player last season. “It takes hard work, it takes never being complacent and always striving for more.”
Teammates feed off the six-foot, 225-pound Elimimian’s passion and will look for him to assume an even larger leadership role as he enters his sixth season.
“He’s not content with winning the most outstanding player,” said veteran defensive back Ryan Phillips. “It would have been an ideal year if we had been able to win the Grey Cup as well, but since we didn’t he wants to make sure we go out there and finish on the right note. That’s not enough for him and I admire that.
“He wants to be the best player possible, but he also wants to be the best player for the team.”
Elimimian admitted he was a bit naive after the Lions won a championship on home soil in 2011, believing they’d make a quick return. The opposite has been the case.
“I want more Grey Cups,” he said. “I thought it would be easy. I thought we could win one every year and I haven’t been back since. The more you play this game the more precious you realize those rewards are.”
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press