“Who’s No. 87? Elks head coach Jaime Elizondo said with a smile on his face.
The man who wears that number for the green and gold is Derel Walker. The all-star receiver was on the field as a member of the EE Football Team on Monday at training camp for the first time since September 2018.
“It definitely still feels like home. It’s a different vibe, different feeling as far as different players and we got different staff and a different equipment manager. There’s a lot of differences as far as the guys that were here last time I was inside the facility and the building,” Walker said.
Walker is back in Edmonton after leaving the Alberta Capital to sign with the Toronto Argonauts in 2019. He took a significant pay cut to return to the City of Champions. The six-foot-two, 187-pound pass catcher signed a contract with the Argos in February 2019 that made him the highest-paid non-quarterback in the CFL, earning $280,000.
Per 3DownNation‘s John Hodge, his new deal in Edmonton will see the 30-year-old earn $180,000 in 2021. The contract is structured to include a $98,000 base salary, a $12,000 housing bonus, and a $70,000 roster bonus that will be paid when he takes his first snap in the regular season. The salary reduction was worth it to join a talented team.
“Just looking at the roster, on paper — it’s insane. Then when I get around the guys it just makes it settle in, we got a great group of guys here,” Walker said.
“Myself, Greg Ellingson — he’s been dominating the CFL year in, and year out — we got Kenny Stafford, we got Armanti Edwards, we got Mike Jones, we got Tavaun Smith — we’re stacked. When you really look at our receiving core, we got a great group of guys who have played quite a while in this league and made names for themselves.”
In 2015 Walker began his CFL career with Edmonton, starting the season on the practice roster. Walker made his debut in Week 8 versus the Montreal Alouettes and recorded 10 receptions for 125 yards.
The Texas A&M University product played in 12 games that season, recording 89 receptions — an Edmonton rookie record — for 1,110 receiving yards, and six touchdowns. He capped the season off by capturing the 103rd Grey Cup while earning the league’s Most Outstanding Rookie award, and a CFL all-star selection.
Walker built upon his rookie success in his second season. He led the league in both receptions (109) and receiving yards (1,589), adding 10 touchdowns. No. 87 was named both a West Division and CFL all-star for the second consecutive year.
Walker’s performance garnered NFL interest in the off-season, as he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was released at the end of training camps and returned to the EE Football Team for the remainder of the 2017 season. In abbreviated action, Walker finished the season with eight games played, 48 receptions, 634 yards, and two touchdowns.
In 2018, Walker would start 11 games before an injury in the Labour Day Classic against the Calgary Stampeders sidelined him for the remainder of the season. He finished the year with 51 receptions, 875 yards, and 8 touchdowns. Despite only playing in 11 games, he was named a West Division all-star for the third time in his career.