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July 16, 2017

Sewell’s at home in Edmonton

When Almondo Sewell moved from Jamaica to Trenton, N.J. when he was 13, he had no idea that one day he’d end up playing professional football in Edmonton, Canada.

And he especially had no idea that he and his wife would decide to spend the rest of their lives here.

That’s the way it’s worked out.

“I’ve been a year-round guy here for the last three years,” said the defensive lineman who will play his 100th CFL game, all with the Eskimos, this season.

“From the day I first came up here Canada has always seemed a place where everything is a lot better to me. One day my wife and I decided we might as well just stay. We’re in the process of getting our Canadian citizenship. We see this as home.”

Sewell said there’s a significant contrast between Trenton, New Jersey and Edmonton, Alberta.

“To be honest with you, where I grew up in Trenton wasn’t the best area. There was shooting here and shooting there, gang violence here and gang violence there. When I came to Canada, I could actually walk down the street without getting shot.

“I like that it’s a diverse country. You see people of all races walking around. You get to be yourself. And you meet a lot of good people here. If you are a good guy and a good citizen I believe Edmonton will always take care of you.

“I really enjoy doing the community stuff, and there’s a lot of that to do, spread around a lot fewer guys in the off-season. I like giving back, especially if little kids are involved.”

Careers are short. And when they’re over you have to move on in your life. Some players struggle with that. Not Sewell.

He knows exactly what he wants to do.

“My plan is to join the Edmonton Police Service,” he said.

“As soon as this is over. I took criminal justice in college. My dad is a military guy. I went to a military high school. It’s something I always wanted to do.”

Despite his roots in Jamaica, Sewell relates to playing college football in Akron, Ohio.

Sewell is a graduate of the University of Akron Zips where he became only the second player in school history to earn all-Mid-American Conference honours three times, recording 223 tackles in his four years.

Zips?

“It’s where they invented the zipper,” he said.

As long as you didn’t put your tongue on one of those zippers in January … “Cold never bothered me. It’s cold in Ohio, too. It’s not as cold as here though. It’s just a different cold. In Ohio, it’s a humid cold not a dry cold in Canada. I figured it out. Get a place with a heated garage and go to other places with underground heated parking and that’s half the battle,” he laughed.

Sewell first came to the Eskimos from the Cleveland Gladiators of arena football.

Well, he was ever so briefly an Edmonton Eskimo the previous year, was released and then found work with the Cleveland Gladiators.

Sewell, the first time around, was on the reserve list for the first game of the season, activated for Game 2 and played three games at defensive tackle. He was placed on the one-game injured list for Game 5 before being released.

On the second time around it turned out to be the long season.

“My training camp started in February. I went through 12 league games in Cleveland, plus pre-season said the six-foot-four 288-pound player.

“The Eskimos saw me playing on ESPN against the Iowa Bombers. My agent was in contact with Edmonton the whole week. They told my agent ‘If he comes out of the next game healthy, fly him up Sunday.’

“I played Friday, flew back Saturday and flew to Edmonton Sunday. The Eskimos were already a week into training camp. I had three practices and played the first pre-season game in Calgary.”

Sewell (pronounced Sea-Well) hasn’t let up.

“I was down a little bit when they cut me after playing five games. Actually, I was pretty pissed off. When I got back up here in 2012, I was determined to show them that they made a mistake by cutting me the first time. I told myself ‘I’m not going home the second time.’ And that hasn’t changed to this day. Every time I get on the field now I’m going 100 per cent. Even in practice. Some of my teammates on the offensive line get mad at me about it.

“I think you have to have that mentality in this league. It’s such a big field, and it’s such a fast game. You can’t take a play off, or you’ll be exposed. Everybody will see it.

“Anyway, when I got an opportunity, and I wasn’t going to slouch on it. Thank God Kavis Reed gave me the opportunity to come back to the Eskimos and do it again. I think having played most of the season in the arena league actually paid off because when I got here, I was in game shape.”

Sewell has now played 90 games in the league and goes into Saturday’s game against the Ottawa RedBlacks with 182 career tackles and 39 sacks. Playing in all 18 games each of the last two seasons, he’s been named a CFL All-Star defensive tackle four straight seasons and a Western Conference All-Star five consecutive seasons. Last year he was the Eskimos nomination as the most outstanding defensive player.

Two years ago he won the Grey Cup. And once you’ve done that once, Sewell figures it ought to make you hungry to do it again and again.

“It was an unreal experience. I’d never won any championships. I was like ‘Man, we actually won the Grey Cup.'”

Sewell was invited to Regina as one of the stars for the inaugural CFL Week and was ranked No. 13 on the TSN Top 50 list – fourth highest ranked defensive player.

“It meant a lot to me,” he said of the recognition involved.

“It shows that my hard work is starting to pay off. I really liked what they did at CFL Week. I hope the league keeps providing that kind of access and keeps doing that. Publicity is what makes pro sports work. I think all the players enjoyed everything about CFL Week including the way they had us involved with the fans.”