Jordan Maksymic is back on his home turf coaching the green and gold in the Canadian Football League.
The high school football product of the Bellerose Bulldogs has rejoined the Edmonton Eskimos and will serve as the quarterback coach after two seasons with the Ottawa RedBlacks as the running back coach and offensive assistant.
“I’m really looking forward to being back home again with such a great organization,” Maksymic told the Gazette at Monday’s press conference inside the Eskimos’ locker room at Commonwealth Stadium.
Maksymic, 28, was recruited by new head coach Jason Maas to join the coaching staff. They worked together in Ottawa where Maas was the offensive co-ordinator and quarterback coach. Only days after the Grey Cup, 26-20 for the Eskimos over Ottawa, head coach Chris Jones left for the Saskatchewan Roughriders for the dual title of coach and general manager and the majority of Jones’ assistants followed him to Regina after a 14-4 season and 10 victories in a row to finish off the year.
Maas was later hired by the Eskimos and the former CFL quarterback, including several years with the Eskimos, reached out to Maksymic.
“I had the privilege to work with him last year and he is very knowledgeable, smart and detailed. Everything that I’m not he is and I’m very much looking forward to continuing on our relationship,” Maas said. “He and I will work well together giving direction to our quarterbacks this year.”
Maksymic didn’t fumble the ball when Maas pitched the job offer.
“It was exciting when Jason called about the opportunity,” Maksymic said of the former Grey Cup winner as a player and assistant coach. “Obviously he’s got a strong quarterback background and I will work closely with him and get the quarterbacks ready to play. I still have a lot of learning to do and Jason is a great teacher. I worked with him last year and I like the system that he is bringing and it’s just a matter of me getting to learn that system better and help communicate that better to the quarterbacks.
“I got to know the system very well being with Jason last year and obviously we had some success with that system and now in year two with us being together the familiarity with it is really going to help me going forward.”
So, how do you coach a CFL star like Mike Reilly, the Grey Cup MVP?
“The first goal is not to screw him up,” Maksymic said with a laugh. “Mike is a phenomenal player. He’s an elite quarterback in this league and at this level that’s what you get, you get great players. Our job is really to make sure that we’re organized enough and we’re detailed enough that we can explain the game plan to them in a simple way that they understand.
“Technique-wise our job is really just to give them a few more tools to put in their toolbox. They have enough tools all ready to make it to this level but you just give them a few more tools in their toolbox. They’re elite athletes and they do a good job of picking out the tools that they need in game situations and using those to their benefit.”
Maksymic described himself as a passionate football guy but not as fierily as Maas.
“I’m more even keeled,” Maksymic said. “All I’m worried about is doing the absolute best I can on every day and getting my work done. I found not to look too far in the future because that just kind of throws me off. When I focus on today and when I focus on the present and doing the best I can from this present moment things have a funny way of working out in the future. It’s kind of worked out for me these past how many years it’s been and that’s my philosophy going forward.”
And it all started with the Bulldogs. In Grade 11, Maksymic made his football debut as a receiver and back-up quarterback and in Grade 12 in 2004 was the starting pivot and the team’s MVP.
The next year, under the guidance of head coach Chad Hill, Makysmic was given the offensive co-ordinator’s duties on the junior Bulldogs midway through the first year of the rebirth of the Bellerose junior program.
After the second season on the junior Bulldogs’ staff, former St. Albert resident and CFL head coach Tom Higgins brought Maksymic on board with the Calgary Stampeders as a water boy at training camp. Maksymic eventually worked his way into the team’s video department for two years before going to Northern Arizona University.
“It’s been a long road but a fun road. Obviously, playing at Bellerose and then after I graduated those two years with Chad on the junior team gave me the bug to look more into this and to keep going a little bit. I spent 2007 and 2008 in Calgary in the video department and then I was able to move to Northern Arizona University for 2009 and 2010, where I was a graduate assistant,” said Maksymic, who joined the Eskimos under head coach Kavis Reed as the video co-ordinator in 2011 and 2012 before his promotion to offensive assistant in 2013.
“I was able to back into the CFL game and between NAU and my three-year stint here in Edmonton it really got me into coaching and seeing what that was all about. I was also able to get some great opportunities given to me by good people,” he added. “In Ottawa (under head coach Rick Campbell, who worked with Maksymic on the Eskimos’ staff in 2011) it was probably the two years that I grew the most as coach. I had a great time. It was a great organization with good people. I really enjoyed my time in the city and it just gave me that time and that experience that’s such a valuable experience. You can only do so much sitting in an office and everything like that but to actually get out on the field and interact with players was great.”
Ottawa reached the Grey Cup in its second CFL season as the RedBlacks with quarterback Henry Burris, the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player, spearheading the offence.
“It’s obviously what you work for and the exciting part was just seeing the growth in the team from day one of training camp. It sounds clichĂ© but honestly we got better every single day. You saw us as a coaching staff get better every single day and that rubbed off on our offence. The operation just got so smooth and that’s what allowed us to get to where we were. We were constantly improving. We didn’t plateau at all,” Maksymic said.