For Derrick Townsel, it’s his world to explore.
The former Murray State wide receiver and kick returner accepted a two-year contract last week to play for the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League.
“I was offered (the contract) earlier this season, but I was waiting to see if any (NFL) league teams would call first,” Townsel said. “Once the playoffs rolled around, I thought it was time to secure a place for me to play football, so I signed with Edmonton.”
Townsel finished his Racer career in 2009 with 1,712 yards and five touchdowns on 153 receptions. As a senior, he averaged 22.7 yards per kick return and 24.1 yards per punt return.
Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2010, Townsel was waived two weeks after signing, only to be picked up by the Houston Texans and signed to their practice squad.
Promoted to the Texans’ active roster on Dec. 15, 2010, his purpose was to provide depth in the return game.
Townsel now heads to a new team and a new country, hoping to play a much larger role for the Eskimos these next two years.
“I’m not completely sure yet of my role,” he said. “But I’m sure they’re importing me to make a difference in their offense and special teams. As far as going to another country I’m definitely excited, but I have to remember that I’m going for business and so I have to treat it as such.”
Like all gracious athletes, Townsel sees this opportunity to improve his credentials as a blessing and an important lesson for the future.
“I’ve learned that every day – whether it’s practice, a game, or even pre-game – is a bullet on your resume,” he said. “Always be ready to work.”
The gun-slinging Jeff Garcia, Hail Mary legend Doug Flutie and Tennessee Oilers standout Warren Moon all had success both in the CFL and NFL. Historic Canadian League careers have translated well to the NFL, but Townsel said he plans to take it one step at a time, unsure of his next steps once his contract expires in 2014.
“I’m not worried about that right now,” he said. “I’m just ready to help my new team have a chance to win another Grey Cup Championship.”
The Eskimos last won the Grey Cup in 2005 and finished their 2011 season with an 11-7 record, making the playoffs before losing to the British Columbia Lions in the CFL West Division championship game.
Townsel carries with him the many experiences and memories he had at Murray State, frequently reflecting on them to help him make the right choices for his future.
“I learned a lot while at MSU,” he said. “How to fight through adversity … something we experienced a lot of during my years there. My fondest memory is dealing with those adversities with my teammates. It brought us closer together as teammates and brothers and I’ll never forget it.”
Fans can follow Derrick Townsel, also an aspiring tattoo artist, on Twitter at @DJ_Townsel14.