East County Sports

Van moving in as starter for Eskimos

Travon Van of the Edmonton Eskimos


By @Rob_Tychkowski

Edmonton Sun


EDMONTON – The best thing about being thrown into the starting role without any warning is that Travon Van had a lot of time to prepare for it.

With the Edmonton Eskimos heading into a bye week the day after running back John White went down with a season-ending knee injury, Van had some time to digest what it all means: He’s the new No.1. The responsibility for Edmonton’s ground game is on his shoulders now.

That’s a lot of pressure for a guy who’ve never played a full season in the Canadian Football League before — just nine games last year with the Ottawa Redblacks — but success can’t come without opportunity, and this is his.

“When it happened, I was sad about John White because I was rooting for him to get the rushing title, but this is football, things happen, and I just have to be ready to step up,” said Van, who had six carries for 36 yards in Ottawa’s Grey Cup win last year. “It’s big shoes to fill, the only thing I can do is go out there and try to do my best, and hopefully, that’s enough.”

His teammates believe he is ready to step forward and lead their ground attack for the rest of the year. And we know Eskimos management believes in him or they wouldn’t have brought the former Helix High star over from Ottawa.

“I think he’s going to be great for us,” said quarterback Mike Reilly. “I was excited when we added him in the off-season. He’s a guy who our general manager (former Redblacks assistant general manager Brock Sunderland) knows a lot about, obviously, and our head coach as well.

“He’s a guy who works hard, knows his stuff and is athletically very talented. He’s a guy we can do a lot of stuff with.”

That’s the plan. Van’s versatility will fit right into the Eskimos way of doing things at the running back position. the 5-foot-11, 205-pounder caught 19 passes in Ottawa and can also return kicks.

“Our running backs are asked to do much more than carry the ball,” said Reilly. “They have to pass protect, they have to be able to get out of the backfield and catch the ball. And Trevon can do all of those things extremely well.”

Getting a week to think about it and prepare can only help, not that Van wasn’t ready to step in the moment White injured his knee.

“He loves football, you can tell,” said Reilly. “He’s ready to go. He studies football all the time. Every night, I know he’s in his playbook making sure he’s ready to go, and that’s the kind you want to have in the backfield.

“It’s hard to replace a John White but we’ve got the guy to do it with.”

It’s a tough blow for the Eskimos, losing another starter just two games into the season, but now it’s up to Van to turn a negative into a positive.

“I just want to come in here and play as hard and I can and do whatever it takes for the team to win,” he said, adding he won’t have to change much now that the job is his.

“Not really. Each week we prepare like we’re going to play and the coaches do a good job of getting us right. You have to be ready when your number is called. Coach Maas and Reilly make sure you know everything. There isn’t one time that you step on the field that we don’t know what we’re doing. They do a good job communicating.”

Having a solid offensive line should help with the transition, too. The Eskimos have continuity, toughness and skill protecting and blocking for their skill players in the backfield, which makes running or passing that much more effective.

“I love them, man,” said Van. “They’re good guys, they block really hard and at the end of the day they fight for you.”

Moving fast doesn’t end on the field for Van. He also likes to ride dirt bikes with his friend, professional motocross racer Tyler Churchill.

“Hanging out with him you have to ride, and you have to be kind of fast because if not they talk trash about you,” he said with a laugh, adding he can’t catch as much air as he’d like because he doesn’t want to risk his career.

“I try not to do too many jumps. If I start jumping too far or too high his dad starts yelling at me “football! football!” so I try to focus on that.”

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