The transition from college football in U Sports to the Canadian Football League is never easy, but sometimes, the small things can go a long way in making a young player more comfortable. Cyrille Hogan-Saindon, the Ottawa Redblacks second-round pick in the 2022 CFL Draft is learning that firsthand, as rookie camp ends and main camp is set to open on Sunday.
One of the hardest hurdles to clear for Hogan-Saindon has been communicating with his teammates. As a French speaker, he has been forced to adapt to his new surroundings, including coaches and players who primarily speak English.
“The hardest thing is the language,” said Hogan-Saindon. “I’m a French speaker, so it’s hard to have conversations with other players, but I think I’m getting along with everybody, and I have another French teammate (Ketel Asse) on the offensive line who I played with at Laval.”
Thankfully for Hogan-Saindon, he landed in one of the better options for French-speaking players. Outside of Montreal, Ottawa is the only other city where French is prominent, and when the veteran players report to training camp (whenever that may be), numerous French players will walk into the locker room.
“I’m very happy to have landed here,” he said. “It’s a city not so far from home, French speakers are almost everywhere, and a lot of teammates come from the school I went to, and that really helps the transition.”
Outside of adjusting to a language he’s not entirely used to and being in a city he’s not completely familiar with, Hogan-Saindon isn’t noticing too many differences on the field from his time at Laval.
“Right now, it’s not that different,” he said. “We were really well developed in school at Laval. Our coach coached in the CFL for a long time, so I’m really seeing what he taught us. It really helps the transition.”
“The guys are a bit bigger. The offensive lines and the defensive lines are a bit bigger than in college, but the playbook and everything is mainly the same. The rules are also pretty close.”
It hasn’t just been the size of the players around him that has stood out, but the high level of competition, both between the offensive linemen, but also when he has gone up against defensive linemen in one-on-one drills.
“It’s been quite competitive,” Hogan-Saindon said. “The guys are rookies here, so I would say we’re all almost on the same level. The offensive line did a great job during the three days to get together and work well together.”
“It takes us to a higher level of intensity and physicality,” he said of day three’s padded practice. “It’s a bit harder on the body, but that’s football, and that’s what we like about it. To get hit, and hit somebody. It’s part of the game, that’s what makes it fun.”
“It went well, and I think we are a good group. We all want to work together, and we all want to compete with the free agents that came here in the offseason.”
Rookie camp has provided plenty of learning experiences so far for Hogan-Saindon, but competing with and against rookies can only bring so much. The 24-year-old plans on leaning on some of the veterans, and learning from players who have been in the league for years already.
“I was really focusing on what coach told us for this week,” said Hogan-Saindon. “As soon as [the veterans] all come here and I see them do certain things, I will ask them. When I do something wrong, I’m going to listen to everything the veterans tell me to improve. I’m just looking to be the best football player I can be.”
“To see what the level is that I need to be at to compete in this league really excites me. For the last three days, we were only rookies, and most of them have never played in the CFL, so I’m not sure if what I’ve done for the last three days is going to translate to the next few weeks. I’m really looking forward to learning from them and competing with them, and to having some playing time.”
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