BY GERRY MODDEJONGE , EDMONTON SUN FIRST POSTED: | UPDATED:
EDMONTON – It will be a first for the Edmonton Eskimos, but it’s hardly the first thing that comes to mind.
When training camp kicks off the 2013 CFL season this weekend, the club will open a new chapter in its history, with an African American combination at head coach and general manager for the first time in its history.
But the most remarkable thing about it is just how much of a non-story the ethnic backgrounds of Kavis Reed and Ed Hervey are.
“And it shouldn’t be a story,” said Reed, whose predecessor, Richie Hall, became the Eskimos’ first African American head coach heading into the 2009 season. “Because it’s about people being in place and doing a certain job that is expected of them. I think we are football guys, first and foremost, and we look at it as being football guys.
“It doesn’t matter how deep our tan is, we’re still about the Xs and Os and about having the Jimmys and the Joes.”
But when Hall first came to Edmonton, the topic quickly surfaced as to how underrepresented African Americans were in the field of coaching compared to the ratio of players on the football field.
Eskimos GM Ed Hervey, left, and Kavis Reed may be the CFL’s first African American GM-head coach duo but they are, says Reed, football guys first. (Ian Kucerak, Edmonton Sun)
Fast-forward just four seasons later, and Hervey is sitting in the biggest chair on the organization’s football-operations side of things without so much as a sniff from the media.
“You know what I appreciate about Canada? Is that no one pointed that out. I don’t think of it that way,” said Hervey, who was promoted from head scout to GM back in December, following the unceremonious dismissal of Eric Tillman. “Now, did the thought cross my mind at the time? Of course, because I’m proud of who I am and I’m proud of the road that I travelled to get here, but part of the reason why I stayed in Edmonton was because no one really sees that.
“I haven’t experienced that.”
But you can bet he’s seen plenty enough along the way, growing up in notoriously poor and violent Compton, before his legs carried him to the University of Southern California, where he competed on the track and the gridiron — paving the way for an eight-year all-star studded CFL career with the Eskimos.
In the years since his retirement from playing in 2007, Hervey has shown he was gifted with just as much of a mind for the game as a body.
“I’m proud of the fact that I’ve accomplished this as a football mind,” Hervey said. “And I’m proud of the fact that the Eskimos gave me the opportunity, whether it be the first black or whatever it is.
“But I don’t walk out there saying, ‘I’m black and I have to do it for the black people.’ I say, ‘I have to do this for the Eskimos and what we’re trying to accomplish here.”
Instead of seeing black and white, neither Hervey or Reed can help but focus on Green and Gold, with both being former players who have simply become woven into the fabric of the franchise over the years.
“And Kavis, I think, we all feel the same way and we don’t look at each other saying, ‘Hey, we have to do it for all the African Americans and blacks — we don’t look at it that way,” Hervey said. “We have an opportunity to do something real special here. And do it for a long time, and do it together.
“More importantly, our fans deserve it. Our fans deserve … to trust and know that this team is in good hands with people who actually care about this organization and care about this community and want to win for more than ourselves.
“We’re tired of being that non-factor in this league. We want to become more, and part of that is we have to be on the same page. Because if he and I are not on the same page, we know where that can go.”