When you think about the game of football what do you think about? Many would say that they think about the physical aspect of the game, the tackling and there’s no other position in football which demonstrates exactly that than the linebacker position. That linebacker position is something that the country of Canada knows very well as you can now see several Canadian linebackers at the university and professional level. Of the linebackers that we will be hearing a lot of in the future because of the impact he’s going to have at the next level would be Montreal native Edwin Wilson Tara Kolenge.
Tara Kolenge is well known already, not only in Canada but in the United States as well. Following a 2020 Junior season at Clearwater Academy in Florida he was named a 4 star recruit and he is only going to get better ahead of his 2022 signing day where he’ll likely sign to a power 5 school. Of course for Edwin to get to this point of his life, where he is getting looked at by some of the best football programs, he had to do a lot of work and even though he has a number of division one scholarship offers already he will not stop working until he is the best player he can be. When asked about his journey to get to where he is now he said, “I played soccer and I did swimming when I was little so when I started to play football in youth league in Montreal I fell in love with the game. It was the first time I was able to show my physicality and it was actually the first sport that I wanted to play because my parents made me do the other ones.” Showing his physicality, Edwin Wilson Tara Kolenge played for the Verdun Ti-Cats in Verdun Quebec from ages 9-11 and then when he started high school at 12 years old (Quebec High Schools start at Grade 7) he went to Dalbe Viau High School in Lachine, Quebec. At Dalbe Viau High School he was able to play the game of football, and improve in the game, “When I started playing football I wasn’t good but I wanted to be good so I started to spend more time working on getting better.” As he started to improve as a player, Tara Kolenge began to have higher standards, aiming to be on team Canada or team Quebec after seeing players he knew achieve just that, though he knew he wouldn’t be able to get to that point on his own.
At the age of 15 Edwin started training outside of the Montreal area, mostly in the city of Ottawa alongside former teammate and star linebacker Johari McGregor. Training in Ottawa, he was able to meet several great coaches, one being Jean Guillaume, Ottawa’s 2020 Coach of the Year. When asked about meeting Edwin, Guillaume said, “When I met him I could tell just how much he wanted (to get better) and I remember him telling me that he wanted to play division one football and as a coach I wanted to make sure it happened.” Guillaume, a reason on why he got the 2020 award in the city of Ottawa, has brought several players to the next level, both CIS and NCAA, therefore it shouldn’t be too much for him to get Edwin Tara Kolenge to the next level.
Standing at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, Tara Kolenge’s first event south of the border and his first real exposure to scouts and coaches at the division one level came at the “Best of Midwest” combine in Indianapolis with Jean Guillaume’s Ottawa players. The combine, in the past, has hosted several NFL players, Marshon Lattimore, Denzel Ward and Jaylon Smith just to name a few and for Kolenge, it was an outstanding opportunity to get better and showcase what he’s about as a player. Talking about the combine and the impact Jean Guillaume had on him from meeting him he said, “The Best of Midwest Combine was my first experience in the USA for football and it was very good for me. I got to see where I was compared to some of the best players, I’m very thankful for coach Jean for bringing me to it and for everything he’s done for me too.”
Many in the city of Ottawa don’t know who Edwin Wilson Tara Kolenge is and there is no problem with that because he isn’t from the city, though he has been welcomed to the city with open arms through the game of football. From all of the training he has done with Jean Guillaume’s Ottawa Maroons, to how much he has gotten to know athletes and members of the football community in Ottawa, he is considered a part of the city. “The city of Ottawa has helped me a lot” said Tara Kolenge, “Especially Coach Jean with all of the training and camps I’ve done with him.” He then continued to say, “Ottawa has shown me the road to America for football. In Quebec there aren’t a lot of people that go that route, but in Ottawa and in Ontario it’s more popular so to be around guys that play at a high level is good.”
Now being a part of Ottawa’s football community, there is no doubt that he is the best player in the area, let alone the linebacker position. Of course Ottawa has a good group of linebackers, some that have opportunities in the USA like Edwin, but Tara Kolenge has proven himself to be better than them and is up there to be the best player in all of Canada. In 2020, for his respective age group he was named number 1 on the Canadian Football Chat 100 list, 205th on the ESPN 300 list and he was named a 4 star recruit by several sports media platforms, including Rivals, 247 Sports and Sports Illustrated All American. He is proven to be a number one player, and thanks to a tremendous opportunity in 2020 he has shown that he’s able to keep up with some of the best athletes in his age range. That opportunity being his 2020 High School football season in Florida, USA with Clearwater Academy International where he is coached by well known Florida HS coach Jesse Chinchar. The opportunity though, to go to Florida and play football where football is practically a religion was a no brainer when it came up for Edwin Wilson Tara Kolenge though there were a few factors which played into whether he’d go there or not. When going through the process of going there he decided to go there because, “They have a good history with Canadian players.” he said, “They’ve had a lot of Canadians go to their school and have success going to the division one level and I want to do that so for me to have an opportunity to go there it was a easy decision.”
Over recent years, the Clearwater Academy Knights have had a lot of Canadians attend the school and sign to play at the division one level, a lot of them from Ottawa. To name a few, linebacker Kervens Bonhomme from Ottawa now at Indiana, defensive lineman from Ottawa Akheem Mesidor now at West Virginia, Canadian receivers Jared Wayne and Ajou Ajou at Pitt and Clemson and many more. Among the names mentioned, a good group of the players that have come from Canada and gone to CAI have had help from Jean Guillaume doing so. Its noticed that Guillaume and Chinchar bring a great duo at the high school level to have a number of players go the division one route, though to get to that point the players have to be good as well and Edwin Tara Kolenge isn’t just good, he is a one in a million athlete and he deserves every single accolade that he’s received and will receive in the future. Those accolades that he wants to have well he’s already put his eyes on some of them, “I want to win the Butkus award.” The Butkus award, awarded by the Dick Butkus foundation is awarded to the best linebacker at every level of football. An award is given to the best linebacker at each high school, college and professional stage, and for Edwin Wilson Tara Kolenge, he wants to win it at every level, “I want to be drafted into the NFL. I want to first go division one, graduate from school and then get drafted in the NFL. It has been my dream since I started football when I was 9 and I want to make sure I do it.”
Of all of the players that want to win this award, there’s no arguing that Edwin Tara Kolenge can do it or not. In his first season across the border he turned some heads, tallying 86 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 2 pass break ups and 3 sacks in just 8 games, averaging over 10 tackles a game. The numbers you put up is one thing, but the film is another, when looking over Edwin’s film he shows every reason why he could be the first Canadian to win the Butkus award in 2021. Montreal native and former division one turned professional athlete Christophe Mulumba of the Ottawa Redblacks had said, “He has a lot of potential. You can tell that he is a great player, and he’s just starting to figure out what he’s doing as a linebacker. It was just his first year playing in the states and you have to factor in that he was far from home and playing against talent he hasn’t seen, as well as facing older guys and some have played football too.” with all of those factors playing in Mulumba comments, “He did good. There’s a reason that he has some offers already, it speaks for the talent he has and he showed that he can play at that level.”
The quotes came from Mulumba as he watched Tara Kolenge’s film, though it wasn’t the first time he’d watched him play. He commented, “I’ve trained him in Montreal before and I have watched his film too. He’s a big player, and he’s starting to figure out how to use his size and when he figures that out he will be very physical and he’s already a smart player so he’ll be an all around great player.”
He is a great player now and will be a great player at the next level, given what he’s done year by year he has improved heavily every year that he has played football and his mindset is to keep improving until he is the best he can be. Edwin mentioned in a conversation I had with him, “I want to be the best player that I can be. I only played a little bit last year and that was just a little bit of what I can do. I can do that and more, I look forward to showing that.” When it comes to the time where he will be able to show what kind of player he is next season he intends on being a better player, “Next year I’m not only wanting to be better, I will be a better player.” and it’s not only himself that thinks that, John Garcia Jr of Sports Illustrated All American said himself “It doesn’t take long to know how good of a player he is. He’s built like a linebacker at 6’3, 225 he is a big guy and he is very physical. It’s clear that he is a power 5 recruit and he’s a special player with a lot of upside and potential.” Garcia Jr, one that has covered several stories in the recruiting field and has covered a lot of Clearwater Academy International games as Sports Illustrated All American’s writer in the Tampa Bay, Florida region also said, “This is a player that can easily play 3 downs. He’s very good at stopping the run but he’s also shown an ability to pass rush and go into coverage.”
Doing just that, going into coverage, supporting the run and blitzing, he shows glimpses of a player that you would see a lot of at the next level and that has been something he’s had his mind set on since he started playing football when he was 9 years old. Edwin Wilson Tara Kolenge said, “I watch a lot of Luke Kuechly. He is a very good player, a good player that can do a lot as a linebacker and I’ve been trying to do as much of what he does to make my game similar.” The future Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker, Kuechly with the Carolina Panthers had over 100 total tackles in each of the 8 seasons played, with a total 12.5 sacks which looks great alongside his 34 career takeaways. In his NFL career though, he did a lot at the linebacker position, he was a part of the change at the linebacker position where you can now see linebackers in coverage frequently and you can see that now with Edwin Tara Kolenge. Supporting that again is Garcia Jr, “Kuechly is a Hall of Famer and a part of why he is would be his ability to go into coverage. He did a great job of that at the NFL level and you could see it a lot with Edwin. Watching him play at CAI this past year and seeing what he’s able to do as a linebacker you can see that he does have some of the same tactics that Kuechly has and its a reason why he has offers already.”
The offers he has already would consist of Syracuse University, University of Central Florida, Indiana University, Nebraska University, West Virginia University, East Carolina University, Boston College, Virginia Tech, University of Maryland, University South Carolina, Howard University, Georgia Tech University, University of Arizona, Jackson State University and Rutgers University totalling for 16 division one offers. Following his junior season and just his first season across the border Tara Kolenge is on the radar of several teams and will continue to receive offers as he goes back to Clearwater Academy next season in 2021. When he does go back to Florida next season, this will be a player to watch out for and he is hungry for the Dick Butkus award for the 2021 season. Keep your eyes out for him and continue to watch all of Ottawa and Canadian products going to the next level.