For the 54 players who were picked in the Canadian Football League draft in early May, as well as those signed during the free agency period, plus others who will be added to rosters along the way provided there is a 2021 season, this is the critical point in time they see as a launchpad for what they hope will be a career in professional football.
That is especially true for every drafted Canadian who has grown up with the 3-down game and whose dream it is to play in this uniquely Canadian game.
One of them is big OL Liam Dobson, who was the first pick and third overall by the reigning Grey Cup and West Division champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The Ottawa native played three seasons in the American NCAA college system with the University of Maine. He transferred to Texas State this offseason and will play for them this coming season.
He is what’s called an all-rounder when it comes to sport. Dobson played a bunch of different sports at high school including basketball, volleyball, hockey and rugby. But because of his size, he’s now 6’3” and 340lbs, he really wasn’t suited to most of them. Perhaps somewhere in the forwards of a rugby team would have been his only other realistic option.
He says the Bombers are prepared to wait and see what happens with him in terms of whether he attracts interest from NFL teams.
“Talking to coach O’Shea on the phone was an amazing feeling,” Dobson told bluebombers.com. “He just welcomed me to the team and said they would track my progress this season and then welcome me with open arms next year.
“It makes me feel like I have a home in Canada and so when I get up there it will be go time.”
Later in the draft, the Bombers picked up a couple of defensive players in DB Redha Kramdi and LB Robbie Lowes.
Kramdi is out of the University of Montreal where he played on defence and special teams. He was named an RSEQ Defensive All-Star during his time there.
“I can’t put it into words,” Kramdi said. “I’m just so thankful for everything. I’m thankful for the chance to play professional football. I’m thankful for the Bombers taking a shot with me. It was really a moment of pure happiness.
“It’s tough for me to explain how much it means to me because I just love this game so, so much.”
Lowes is from the University of Regina. He started in all games for the Rams in the 2018 and 2019 seasons. The Bombers say he could be a good fit on their special teams.
Over in the East Division, the Montreal Alouettes got five players in the draft, three of whom hail from La Belle Province.
Their first pick was DL Pier-Olivier Lestage of the University of Montreal Carabins. The Als landed him with the first pick of the second round and tenth overall.
He had a stellar career at the University of Montreal being named on the RSEQ’s First All-Star team and the nation’s Second All-Star team. He is such an accomplished player he was signed by the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent following the NFL draft, which preceded the CFL iteration.
Native Quebecer K David Côté was another draft pick by the Alouettes. A product of the Laval University Rouge et Or, he still has a season of eligibility left at the university level but is hoping that this will be the start of his pro football career.
“I am doing everything possible to give myself the best chances,” Côté told montrealalouettes.com. “I do cardio and weights on a regular basis. I still have a few exams to get my baccalaureate, then that will be my only focus.”
Of course, there are no guarantees in life, especially in what can sometimes be the fickle world of professional sport. All the guys who have been drafted are by no means guaranteed spots on their teams’ rosters. It will be up to them to produce the goods and impress their head coaches and assistant coaches enough so that they make the final cut.
First up though, we will need an actual CFL season in 2021.