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June 12, 2019

Orange Changed His Name, But Not Playing Style

In his first football season as Anthony Orange, he was a CFL all-star.

Orange had 54 defensive tackles and five interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) in 18 games with the BC Lions last year.

But Orange didn’t just show up out of the blue in 2018.

As A.J. Jefferson, he grew up in Bakersfield, Calif., went to college at Fresno State and had two interceptions and 19 pass deflections (knockdowns) in 43 NFL games with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings during the 2010-13 seasons.

He also had 12 knockdowns alone in 2011, when he played the opposite corner to Arizona’s future NFL star Patrick Peterson before being traded to the Vikings in 2012, and a pick in a 2014 pre-season game with the Seattle Seahawks before injuring his ankle and landing in the CFL.

The 31-year-old cornerback, who has played with the Toronto Argonauts, Ottawa RedBlacks and BC in Canada since crossing the border in 2015, spent the last couple of months of the 2017 season on the Eskimos practice roster after Edmonton suffered a run of injuries in the secondary.

Why the name change?

“My family’s maiden name is Orange,” he explained. “I had always planned to change it while growing up, but never had a legitimate reason. Then my daughter (Cecilia Lynn) was born Aug. 7 last year. Before that, in February, I changed my name to my family’s maiden name, Orange – my mother (Tahlia), grandfather, grandmother.

“The rest of my family’s last name is Orange, so when (Cecilia) came into this world, her last name would be Orange. When I get married, my fiancée (Christina Ogilvie)’s last name will be Orange. My name will be Orange. Everybody’s last name will be Orange.”

Regardless of which name he has played under, the six-foot, 190-pound Orange has always been an aggressive player.

“For me, it’s always been high risk/high reward,” he said. “Coaches that I’ve had always told me, ‘Believe what you see.’ Where you get beat is when you hesitate.

“I’m a big believer in if you see it and you guess wrong, at least you’re guessing wrong full speed. Nine times out of 10, I figure I’m usually right. So if I guess and I see something happening, and I get a good jump on it, for sure, I’m going to get a pick. But if I’m wrong, hopefully, my safety is over the top, and something will work out for us.”

Of course, a cornerback doesn’t want to be wrong too often when he guesses on a play because he doesn’t always have backup support.

“For me, it’s always been like, ‘If I see something, I’ll jump it,’ ” Orange said. “Teams will scheme for me. They know I’m going to be aggressive on some things so I might see double moves early to try to slow me down, take my feet away from me. I’ve only had a couple of games where I got beat on some double moves, but I’ve always come right back and got more aggressive to try to shut that down. If I get a double move, I’m going to go down on the next couple of plays and just press the receiver, take him out of the read completely.”

Orange tore a shoulder labrum late last season and had surgery at the end of November, but wasn’t able to make his training camp debut with the Eskimos during the pre-season until late last week. He’s hoping to play in Friday’s Home Opener/Season Opener against the Montreal Alouettes at The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium. Game time is 7 p.m.

“It feels good, man,” Orange said about being back with the Eskimos, but this time with an expectation to play. “I’ve got a good history with Brock (Sunderland, the Eskimos General Manager and Vice-President of Football Operations who signed him during the fall of the 2017 season), so I know what he wants, what he’s expecting of me, so I’m just happy to be here.

“Just talking to (Eskimos Defensive Coordinator Phillip) Lolley and seeing what’s going on here, I’m really excited about (the season),” Orange continued. “He’s a big aggressor, a big pressure guy, but he’s going to send six (players) more often than not.

“As a DB (defensive back), I love to see that because that means he’s going to put pressure on the quarterback, force him to make bad throws, get the ball out fast. For me, if the ball’s coming out fast, if I make my reads right, I can get interceptions.”

Orange also played for an aggressive defensive coordinator last year at BC, but it was a different style in that Mark Washington worked “more along the lines of match and try to confuse the quarterback.”

“I played the same kind of thing,” Orange said about his style. “I was aggressive most of the time, pressing a lot, waiting for those opportunities to get the ball.”

Orange plays on the boundary corner (short side of the field). It’s where the quarterback usually takes his first read, and it’s the shortest throw “so that’s where they want to go in any short situation.”

“If I can take that side away completely, it makes it easier for the guys on the field (wide side) because that’s a long throw, harder reads out there, a lot more space.”