Jalon Edwards-Cooper has plenty to be thankful for in 2023.
The five-foot-11, 175-pound defensive back is back in the B.C. Lions secondary after battling through a foot injury that forced him to miss time last year and undergo two operations. And in December, Edwards-Cooper will become a first-time father.
But entering fatherhood off a Grey Cup championship would be the perfect cap to a memorable 2023 for the 26-year-old native of Spring, Tex.
"Yes, it's going very well so far," Edwards-Cooper said. "But that Grey Cup, man, would make it even better."
Edwards-Cooper and his wife learned a few months back that their first child will be a girl.
"Of course, I wanted a boy, I'm not going to lie," he said with a chuckle. "Having a girl is going to change me, for sure, but I'm excited and I'm ready to just have her around me and let her be a Daddy's girl."
Edwards-Cooper is in his third season with B.C. He has appeared in 11 games this year, registering 26 tackles, another on special teams, an interception and forced fumble while returning a blocked punt 63 yards for a touchdown.
Edwards-Cooper signed with B.C. in 2021. After starting on the practice roster, Edwards-Cooper made nine regular-season starts with the Lions, recording 29 tackles, five knock-downs and two interceptions.
He appeared in seven regular-season games in 2022 before suffering a foot injury. Although Edwards-Cooper rejoined the Lions in time for the CFL playoffs, he had a second procedure on the foot in the off-season.
"I can't say doubt didn't creep into my head at times," Edwards-Cooper said. "But I'm a firm believer in God, I just knew if he put me on this journey and let this happen it was for a reason.
"I just always try to look at the good in things like that. It (time away from field) gave me more time to understand the game more and see things I probably wouldn't have seen before. It all worked out in my favour."
Before joining the Lions, Edwards-Cooper played collegiately at Texas A&M-Commerce. He appeared in 46 games over four years there, registering 141 tackles (18 for loss), six sacks, six interceptions (one returned for TD) and four forced fumbles.
In 2017, Edwards-Cooper helped the school win an NCAA II championship.
"Jalon is a highly intelligent, highly motivated player," said Kenny Kim, Edwards-Cooper's Florida-based agent. "I'm proud of him coming off a difficult '22 season but still persevering and working so hard to get to where he is now.
"He's a great player but an even better father-to-be. I'm looking forward to watching his career continue to blossom."
B.C. (9-4) stands second in the West Division with a game in hand on first-place Winnipeg (10-4). The Lions moved to within two points of top spot by rallying from a 19-point deficit to down Ottawa 41-37 at B.C. Place and Hamilton surprising the Blue Bombers 29-23 at Tim Hortons Field.
"That was, by far, the craziest game I've ever been a part of in my life," Edwards-Cooper said of the Lions' stirring comeback. "But that's the Canadian game, that's the CFL.
"That was a big roller-coaster, so up and down. That's one of the most exciting games I've ever been a part of … I was speechless."
The victory certainly gives B.C. plenty of momentum heading into its road game Friday night versus Edmonton (4-10). The Lions can secure a playoff berth with a victory over the Elks (4-10) or a Calgary Stampeders loss Saturday to the Montreal Alouettes.
Edmonton, though, has won two straight and four-of-five overall with Canadian starter Tre Ford.
"Edmonton is a good team and you can't overlook them," Edwards-Cooper said. "They've definitely found their groove."
B.C. hosts Winnipeg on Oct. 6, but Edwards-Cooper, for one, won't think about that contest until it's the next one up on the schedule.
"You can't look that far ahead," he said. "Hopefully (Ottawa win) gives us a huge lift for these next coming weeks.
"It raises our spirits up because we're a team of motivation and spirit, we must have high energy. In the first half (versus Ottawa) there was no energy so hopefully it builds our energy up and helps us play the way we know we can play."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2023.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press