When Chase Claypool was drafted in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers dreams became reachable for many Canadian football players. For years the only Canadian athletes showcased on the big stage were offensive and defensive linemen. Players like Tyrone Crawford, David Onyemata and Laurent Duvernay Tardif were often marketed as the best Canadians in the NFL but with Claypool being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers and having scored 13 touchdowns in his rookie campaign young Canadian football players can now look up to skill position players. Claypool isn’t the only Canadian skill position player in the NFL and there will only be more around him as we look into the future. Right now we can watch both Nkeal Harry and Chase Claypool playing in the NFL for the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers but following this year’s NFL Draft and those to come the NFL could have Volunteer Joshua Palmer, Virginia’s Terrell Jana, Alabama Crimson Tide’s John Metchie, Jared Wayne of PITT, and Clemson’s Ajou Ajou at receiver as well as running backs Chase Brown from Illinois and Oklahoma State Cowboys star Chuba Hubbard. When asked about the growth of talent and recognition for skill position Canadians president of Football Canada Jim Mullin said, “We can now put guys like Chase Claypool, Chuba Hubbard and John Metchie on posters to help kids visualize themselves at the next level.”
One kid that can visualize himself at the next level with help from the continuous success of Canadians like Chase Claypool, Chuba Hubbard and John Metchie is Montreal born and raised receiver Dylan Djete. Djete began playing football because of family and friends, then fell in love with the game. Noticing that it is much more than just a game, that it is a family, a lifestyle and a field of opportunity, Dylan Djete became more involved in the game of football, transitioning from youth house league football which he started playing at the age of 8 to competitive with team Quebec. With team Quebec Djete was able to play in the gold medal match of the Canada Cup and despite losing the game to Saskatchewan won the defensive player of the game, getting nods from both the CFL and Football Canada for the accomplishment. As he talked about the opportunity to play with team Quebec and even team Canada as well Dylan Djete commented, “It was a dream come true. Being from Montreal I saw a few guys go division one and even professional, one thing that they all did was play competitively so being able to do that and get the player of the game was awesome, and it showed me that I could play with the best.”
After showcasing his talent alongside some of the best players in Canada, Dylan Djete got another opportunity. Much bigger than the first opportunity with Team Quebec, Djete got the call from coach Jesse Chinchar of Clearwater Academy International in Florida to play football state-side. The majority of players that have gone division one and professional within the game of football have all played in the U.S for high school, following in that lead was Dylan Djete, all thanks to 4-star linebacker Edwin Tara-Kolenge. He said, “When Edwin got in, he told Jesse about me and they had a few spots for receiver. It was amazing to get the opportunity and being here has been a great experience so far too.” A great experience, full of opportunities and success in Clearwater for wide receiver Dylan Djete. Success even coming in his first ever game across the border, scoring a total 3 touchdowns on well over a 200 receiving yard performance, though that kind of success wasn’t expected of Djete.
Djete says “it was a blessing. I was doubting myself, I didn’t know how I would do against Americans but after 3 touchdowns in the first game in Florida I was like ‘wow I can play with them’.” The first game, playing against the Brentwood Eagles out of Tennessee which Dylan Djete had three scores in earned him a spot on that week’s Under The Radar YouTube video that now has over 91,000 views, followed by another Under The Radar spotlight after the full Clearwater Academy International season. He says, “As a kid I always watched Under The Radar on YouTube, watching some of the best athletes perform on Friday nights and dreaming of having that same spotlight and now I’m here. Its like dreams keep coming true when I play football.” The end of season spotlight from Under The Radar featured training clips of Djete as well as his best plays of the 2020 season. His season totals were 31 catches, 780+ yards and 9 touchdowns.
One thing not featured in the Under The Radar spotlight and is an underrated attribute for Djete is his versatility and football I.Q. In the 2020 high school season spent across the border in Florida, the Clearwater Academy International quarterback Luca Stanzani suffered an injury, leaving him out of a good portion of a game or two, one of the players filling in for Stanzani was Dylan Djete. Though Djete didn’t necessarily put on a show at quarterback he was still able to demonstrate his ability to read defences from the pocket and his knowledge from the quarterback position instead of just the receiver position. This wasn’t the only time Dylan Djete played a different position, the now star receiver played defensive back for Team Quebec, winning defensive MVP in the National Championship game against Saskatchewan in 2019. Being able to read defences, and really understand the defensive back position can be crucial as a receiver and he believes it is one of his best attributes. Djete said to me in an interview, “It helps a lot because I am not the fastest receiver nor am I the tallest. It makes up for the lack of size and speed because sometimes I know what the defensive back is going to do before he does it, to make the next move I don’t need a lot of speed, I can just be smart about it and do what works best now that I know what will happen on the other side.”
The ability to play quarterback and defensive back should be a major help in his recruiting process, not because he can play it at a high level but because he’s already been taught the fundamentals of the two positions, making his job as a receiver much easier when he knows what the quarterback is looking for on a play and what a defensive back could be doing on certain routes and in different coverages but his football I.Q doesn’t beat his work ethic. Like a lot of Canadian players that have crossed the border to play high school football, Djete has used his opportunity in Clearwater as a business trip. It is his opportunity to showcase himself to coaches at the next level and improving his skills and talents while doing so. “I always want to be better.” said Djete, “My work ethic and my football I.Q are my biggest strengths in the game of football. I really eat, sleep and live football every day because I have the goal to play at the highest level of football and I have the goal of being the best receiver in the nation.”
Having the goal to play at the highest level of football, Djete has the dream of playing his post-secondary football career at the university of Alabama. Following in fellow Canadian John Metchie’s footsteps Djete says, “They are the best team out there and they have the best coaches. I don’t see a better spot to dream of going.”
Like many, Dylan Djete has the dream of playing for the great Nick Saban and at the receiver powerhouse where star receivers Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, Calvin Ridley, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith all went, though he also has looked into a few schools which other Quebec natives have gone. He mentioned, “Syracuse has recruited a lot of Montreal players. To be able to play with people back home would be great too.”
No matter where Djete lands after his senior season with the Clearwater Academy International Knights, he will have the opportunity to not only prove that he can play at a high level but Canadian receivers can as well. The country will now have Chase Claypool, Nkeal Harry, Joshua Palmer and Terrell Jana all in the NFL following this year’s NFL Draft and with players like John Metchie, Ajou Ajou (CAI alum) and Jared Wayne (CAI alum) all on the come up, Dylan Djete can be a key name for the future Canadian receivers in the NFL.