The Toronto Argonauts didn’t let star receiver Derel Walker take a visit with any other CFL team.
Walker signed a one-year contract worth around $285,000 to play in Double Blue just after free agency opened in February. The 27-year-old has been a two-time CFL all-star and won a Grey Cup with the Edmonton Eskimos in 2015.
Around the league, Walker is regarded as one of the elite talents at his position. He spoke for the first time since signing on the dotted line in Toronto.
Q: How did the free agent process play out for you?
Walker: A lot to tie into it. Financial side had some of the things to do with it. It would have been nice to go back to Edmonton, but unfortunately business works out the way it does sometimes. The financial things started to tie into it so then I decided to take a visit here (Toronto.) I wanted to meet the coaching staff and the GM in person to get a feel for them. I feel everyone around here was real genuine. That was the main reason why I made this decision. I’m happy, I’m excited in the decision I made. My favourite colour is blue.
Q: Were there visits scheduled with different franchises?
Walker: Other teams would have liked for me to come, for sure, no doubt. But I was really trying to make my decision quickly. This was the best offer for me, the best fit for me with a quarterback I’m familiar with, veteran receiver S.J. [Green], with coach [Corey] Chamblin as the head coach, real great guy, real genuine guy. Those were some of the things that tied into my decision.
Q: Did the Raptors game complete the deal?
Walker: I’ve been to games like that before, it didn’t seal it, it was icing on the cake, but it didn’t seal it for me because all that doesn’t really have to much to do with football. But it’s nice to get out and enjoy the Raptor game, it was a very, very good game. It had some brownie points on top of that. I just liked the natural feel of being around the guys.
Q: Did you speak with Mike Reilly about joining him in B.C.?
Walker: Definitely did. Mike is one of my good friends. We chopped it up, talked a little bit. He wanted me to be with him but he understands how business works. I’m very, very cool with Ed Hervey and all them guys, a lot of former Eskimos over there. We had a few brief conversations and I would have loved to play with Mike Reilly, he’s been my quarterback since I’ve been a player in the league the entire time. He went to B.C. and they had their own thing over there and they signed a lot of great receivers. But unfortunately it wasn’t a financial standpoint for me, so that’s one reason why I really couldn’t go there – I’m here with James Franklin now.
Q: What does being the highest paid non-quarterback in the league mean?
Walker: It says a lot about my hard work and dedication, how far I’ve come to get here, I’ve been through a lot of trials and tribulations. So I’m just thankful to be in this position that I’m in. By saying that I have to live up to those expectations and I’m definitely going to do that for sure, I’m busting my butt to get better to provide this team with a service that they need. I’m going all out which is what I do every year. Last year I was in Edmonton, I was the highest paid receiver over there as well, but the role over there wasn’t quite what I expected going into the season.
Q: What role do you see yourself in with the Argos?
Walker: I feel like I put in the time and the work to become a No. 1, the No. 1 role I haven’t had yet since I’ve been here in the CFL. If you go back and watch the film you’ll see my targets and you’ll see how things went. I’m looking forward to have that highlight in my role being a No. 1 to where I have my confidence to where I know how important I am to this team. I’m going to bring a lot of confidence and tenacity with me for these other receivers as well. We have S.J. Green here a veteran he’s been doing it, I’m going to learn a lot from him.
Q: Do you and James Franklin have a relationship?
Walker: James Franklin – we came into the league together. From mini-camp to training camp to having a great rookie season together. That being said, me and Franklin have a nice chemistry together as far as him placing the ball in the perfect spot for me. One game as a rookie he threw me 14 targets, I was exhausted that game but I didn’t complain at all. Frank’s a great guy, great quarterback, great person, I’m really looking forward to seeing him develop this year.
Q: Did Franklin recruit you to the Argos?
Walker: He’s always very honest and open about the whole situation. That really helped me seal the deal, having a guy like Frank’s outlook on everything – I wanted to come help him, he’s a great friend of mine. Last year I was expecting him to play 10 fold – way better – I got high expectations for Franklin, I know how good he is. Next few years I believe he’s going to be one of the best quarterbacks in this league. Period. That’s just my personal opinion because I’ve watched him grow.
Q: Do you want to take another NFL shot?
Walker: I could definitely see myself doing that, but I haven’t really thought that far yet. I’m really just focused on what I can do this year and the off-season. Just put up numbers that haven’t been done.