In the 2021 CFL Draft the Ottawa Redblacks front office led by general manager Marcel Desjardins selected with their six draft picks pass rusher Deshawn Stevens, West Virginia defensive back Alonzo Addae, Connor Berglof, an offensive lineman of Saskatchewan who pairs with Matthew Derks on the offensive line from Delaware State and special teamers Jake Julien and Keegan Markgraf. The Redblacks’ draft picks are mostly futures as the only player that the team are guaranteed to see at camp in 2021 is offensive linemen Connor Berglof. That meaning only 37% of the Redblacks’ 2021 CFL Draft class will be on the roster for the season which is set to begin on the 5th of August however with that being said the five other draft picks could have major impacts on the field at TD Place in the near future.
Long Snapper Keegan Markgraf who is originally from the Hamilton, Ontario and played for the Utah Utes as well as Eastern Michigan punter Jake Julien out of Barrie, Ontario each have the opportunity to come to Ottawa and make a special teams impact with the best special teams unit in the CFL coached by Bob Dyce and led by University of Ottawa kicker Lewis Ward. To go alongside the 4th and 5th round selections of the Ottawa Redblacks from Tuesday night’s draft the team also has Alonzo Addae who is going back to West Virginia following his first season there which in 10 games he made 66 tackles, 2 interceptions, 5 pass breakups and forced one fumble. If Addae doesn’t get an opportunity in the 2022 NFL Draft, him playing with defensive backs Sherrod Baltimore, Randall Evans, Marcus Roberson, Abdul Kanneh and Gump Hayes could be a dangerous site for a lot of CFL quarterbacks.
Another dangerous site for a lot of quarterbacks in the CFL in 2021 and in future years would be the Ottawa Redblacks’ defensive line. The team brought in nose tackles Cleyon Laing, Stefan Charles and Davon Coleman over the span of the off-season while also bringing back Avery Ellis and Danny Mason at edge, making Ottawa’s defensive line one of the best in the CFL, continuing to improve during the 2021 CFL Draft. With the Redblacks’ first round pick in the 2021 CFL Draft and the 6th pick overall head coach Paul LaPolice called pass rusher Deshawn Stevens who played his collegiate career at the University of Maine and is currently in the NCAA transfer portal. There is a small chance that Stevens does play with the Ottawa Redblacks come August 5th when the CFL is back in action all depending on what schools he has to choose from in the NCAA transfer portal. If he lands on another NCAA team for the fall he will not be able to play the 2021 CFL season but when he does come to the CFL with the Ottawa Redblacks he will be ready to make an impact with some old connections.
While at the university of Maine Stevens had the opportunity to play with a number of people that have ties to the city of Ottawa. He most recently played with Ottawa natives Liam Dobson and Katley Jospeh with the Black Bears and looking a little further back in time he has crossed paths with Micah Wright who played in Ottawa in 2019 and Christophe Mulumba who signed with the Redblacks this off-season. He also, in his first year at the University of Maine, was coached by now Ottawa Redblacks’ defensive back Sherrod Baltimore. He said, “Sherrod was there my freshman year before he got up to Ottawa and his thing was always being ready. His motto was ‘stay ready so you don’t have to get ready’ and that was something that was emphasized during practices.” Stevens explained more on how Baltimore helped him early on at Maine mentioning, “His impact was left. It was significant. Seeing someone that was still figuring out themselves and seeing him work extra hours after coaching was something I saw being a black bear.”
When the newcomer Deshawn Stevens comes to Ottawa for training camp, whether that be this year or next he’ll have a tour guide in Sherrod Baltimore to show him the ways, but his Maine family who he says he’s happy to be “reunited with again.” isn’t the only family he has in Ottawa. Stevens has two cousins that live in Ottawa he said in a zoom Tuesday night after getting the call from LaPolice in the first round of the 2021 CFL Draft, “I also have cousins Jesse and Jerome Stevens that played at St FX back in the day who are from Ottawa so I’ll be close to them now too.”While also reminiscing on some of the connections he has in the city of Ottawa he looked back on a visit he had at Carleton University before going across the border for high school, “Before I went to the states I went on a visit to Carleton so I was able to see a Carleton game and see the Senators play.”
In the CFL, lots of players tend to have connections with each of the nine teams in the league somehow considering how small of a family the CFL is, however it is clear that the majority of Deshawn Stevens’ CFL connections are in the city of Ottawa and with the Ottawa Redblacks. Stevens if not picked up by an NCAA team for the 2021 fall season will be headed to Ottawa for the 2021 CFL season beginning August 5th and will play a major role on the defensive line with other Canadian help from Cleyon Laing, Stefan Charles, Nigel Romick, Ese Mrabure-Ajufo and Kene Onyeka.