May 22, 2023

Media Day in Riderville: An afternoon with Derel Walker, DJ Morgy Morg and friends

One day after scoring a touchdown by pinning the football against the back of a defender in the back of the end zone, Derel Walker exhibited even more of his talent in the back of a truck. 

A TSN crew was in Saskatoon on Sunday to shoot video of select Saskatchewan Roughriders players — footage that will be incorporated into the network’s telecasts during the 2023 CFL season. 

As one whose glittering resume includes three 1,000-yard seasons, Walker was an automatic and inspired choice to ham it up for the cameras on Media Day in Riderville. 

The inclusion of Walker was especially timely in light of his spectacular performance in Saturday’s truncated Green and White intrasquad game.
The contest was called after only 4½ minutes of action due to smoke emanating from wildfires in Saskatchewan and Alberta. 

Even during that brief time, Walker was able to demonstrate the form that prompted the Roughriders to sign him as a free agent over the winter. 

In collaboration with another prominent free-agent signing — quarterback Trevor Harris — Walker made three catches for 75 yards. The final catch, for a 10-yard score, was the kind rarely seen but always appreciated. 

He completed the play by reaching around the defensive back, whose back was to the quarterback, and pinning the pigskin against the DB in order to engineer a completion despite the tight coverage. 

So, yes, Walker earned the right to dance on Sunday. That he did, with endless enthusiasm, as the cameras rolled. 

The average viewer would presume that the session takes place in an expansive studio.  

But, actually, the lights, cameras, computers and technicians can all be found in one of the two trucks that TSN is using to stockpile footage. One truck is touring West Division training camps while the other vehicle is barnstorming the East Division. 

Inside the truck in Saskatoon, producer Rob Dunn was joined by Kyle Burgess (technical director, carpenter), Aidan Koback (camera assistant, musical director) and James Judges (camera operator).  

The lighting was the handiwork of award-winning cinematographer and producer George Hupka. 

The lightheartedness was a production of Derel Walker, who had fabulous fun throughout the shoot. 

To the accompaniment of a recording by rapper Baby Keem, Walker — resplendent in a full game uniform — gestured toward the camera and provided additional energy by exclaiming: “Rider Nation! Let’s go-o-o-o-o-o-o!” 

Such was the routine for several minutes, as Judges zoomed in, zoomed out, and captured Walker’s assortment of poses from a variety of angles. 

As a veteran CFLer, he knew the drill. 

As someone who is imbued with an upbeat, fun personality, he was a natural. 

Once every required shot had been crossed off the list, Walker cordially thanked the crew. 

Next stop: The well-named Green Room, located a short golf cart ride away on the expansive University of Saskatchewan campus. 

Indoors, Walker crossed paths in the makeshift studio with Roughriders defensive lineman Anthony Lanier II. 

“I’m the pain,” Lanier said, jokingly. 

“And I’m the joy,” Walker added, shaking hands and sharing a laugh with his teammate. 

At one end of the Green Room, Walker took part in a combined video/photo session.  

Saskatoon-based photographer Derek Elvin and Roughriders Digital Media Producer Blake Tiedeman were kept busy as Walker continued to put on a show. 

Elvin shot photographs and Tiedeman took video in order to capture images that would be used on the Maxtron, the Roughriders’ social-media channels, as part of graphics, and in myriad other ways. 

The background had a nostalgic vibe because the Green Room was tactically located in one of the older buildings at the U of S. 

“We were going for the rustic look,” Tiedeman noted, “with the old windows and old stones.” 

Old stones, yes, but new tunes! 

“The song requests were a great aspect of it,” Tiedeman added. “They made all the players feel comfortable by giving them a song they could jam to.” 

That is where Morgan Fleury became an integral element of the equation. 

“Actually,” Tiedeman interjected, “she’s DJ Morgy Morg.” 

To ensure that a playlist was quickly accessible, Fleury had touched base with a DJ friend who provided suggestions. Also at DJ Morgy Morg’s disposal: Spotify. 

Other vital contributors to the process were Karina Peterson (the Roughriders’ Community Operations Co-ordinator) and Jacqueline Hurlbert (Director, Marketing and Fan Engagement), both of whom ensured that the players had transportation from the video truck to the Green Room. 

“Karina asked the players what song they wanted, so we would have it ready for them when they arrived,’’ Fleury said. 

There were two stations in the Green Room — the video area, which included the aforementioned rustic ambience, and a photo set with a white background. The latter area was used to provide TSN and the Roughriders with a treasury of pictures. 

While Walker’s every move was captured by Tiedeman and Elvin, Saskatoon-based Liam Richards was busy photographing Lanier II. 

After a few minutes, Walker and Lanier II switched places. 

With Richards firing away, Walker caught a few passes and even included a Heisman Trophy pose. 

“I had a great time, honestly, just being in that atmosphere,” he said. “You’ve got to have high energy to do things like that. It just makes the photo shoot a lot better. Obviously, I always enjoy everyone I’m around, too.” 

That mindset made him a most co-operative and compelling photo/video subject. He cheerfully complied with every request made by the crew members. 

Walker did everything, come to think of it, but pin a football against the back of a nearby individual. 

Understand, though, that you don’t see something like that every day. 

“I kind of caught the ball first and then pinned it against him so I wouldn’t lose it,” Walker recalled when asked about Saturday’s signature play. “It did move a little bit but, once I felt it move, I just tried to squeeze it.
“It was a great throw by Trevor. He placed it where the DB couldn’t make a play on the ball. Then we just made some magic.” 

There was much more to follow on Media Day.