March 13, 2018

Taking the Torch: Tunde ready to step up in Calgary

David Moll/

The mentor has the utmost confidence in the protégé.

The sorcerer is sold on his apprentice.

“Oh, he’ll be fine,” Joshua Bell is quick to assure one and all of Tunde Adeleke. “Just fine.

“Physically he has the skills and ability, he has the speed and the burst.

“He’s willing to throw his body around and that allows him to be a sure tackler.

“What was important is when he got here, he was able to grasp the concepts that we did, to mimic the veterans, see what they saw and if he made a mistake, it didn’t happen again.

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Adeleke played in 17 games in his rookie season in Calgary (David Moll/Calgary Stampeders)

“When you’d talk to him about why we do things, look him straight in the eye, he was like: ‘OK, I got this. It’s cool.’

“And you knew – knew – that it was. He understands. A smart player.

“I taught him all I could last year and I’ll continue to do whatever I can.

“He has everything you need to be a dominant safety in the league.”

The inspirational Bell’s retirement as an active player at 33 years of age to transition into coaching the Stampeders DBs opens up prime real estate at the wheelhouse position of safety.

The last line of defence. The aerialist working without a net. The one requisitioned to stand guard out in the vast expanse of no-man’s land.

Adeleke’s aim is to step manfully into the breach.

He’s already auditioned for the lead role with three starts at the position through 2017 – his rookie season, when Bell was nicked up – as well as taking one turn at the SAM linebacker spot.

Being able to start a national at safety again would open up the ratio game for Stamps’ head coach Dave Dickenson. An added bonus.

“I’m pretty confident I can fill the role,” says Adeleke. “I’ve had a whole off-season to work on what I learned last year. With Josh not being there, I feel there’s an opening for me and it’s an opportunity I have to make the most of.

“I know there’s going to be competition. I know it’s something I’ll have to fight for. But that’s football.

“Gaining that experience last season, playing against other people in the league, at full pace instead of practice pace against your own teammates, meant so much.

“It’s going to be really helpful, too, having the same guy who taught you all last year as a teammate become your coach, someone who’s so familiar with playing safety. But at the same time, I know Josh is going to put the best option on the field, the guy he thinks is best equipped to help us win games.

“I’ve got to go out there and earn it.”

The 22-year-old suited up in his first Grey Cup at the 105th Grey Cup presented by Shaw (Alex D’Addese/

As much as anyone possibly could, Adeleke – a third-round selection out of the Carleton Ravens program in the 2017 draft – understands the chasm he hopes to bridge if he is indeed to be the one chosen to replace a mainstay: A captain. A President’s Ring and Herm Harrison Memorial Award recipient.

“Josh had told me maybe a month before the news officially came out about his plans,’’ he confesses. “So I knew what was going on.

“I’m happy for him becoming coach and excited for me having an opportunity to fight for a position. At the same time I was kinda mad, because Bell is a great leader, a great safety. Just an all-around great player to have on the field with you.

“So the feeling’s kind of bittersweet.”

Those tricks of the trade, the subtle pointers that the wise old hand passed along to a raw rookie, are set to pay off in a big way.

“He’s always so big on communication, making sure everyone’s aware of their jobs, their assignments, on every play,’’ says Adeleke of Bell. “That’s one thing I sure plan on taking on into the rest of my career: Communicating before the play, during the play and after the play. Just the way he did.

“One of the smartest players I’ve ever been on a field with.

“To be able to watch him, learn from him, listen to what he’s got to say about the game, has been such a big help to me.

“And now I hope to put those lessons to work.”