As of recently, there has been a lot more athletes making it to the next level in football from Ottawa. You can see Ottawa-raised athletes at every single level of football, from high school all the way through the NFL, the capital of Canada is represented extremely well in the game of football, and will only continue to grow across the world. A major reason why I say that, is because of the talent that hasn’t even been touched yet from the city of Ottawa. Yes, we’ve all heard of Eli Ankou, Neville Gallimore, Jesse Luketa, Kurleigh Gittens Jr and Luiji Vilain from Ottawa because of their status as professional athletes, or because of their performances at the division one level, but there are players that are in high school, or even in University that are yet to get their praise, and there are plenty of players exactly like that. Two players, who are class of 2022 or 2023 (2022 but are to re-class) defensive backs from Ottawa fit that description extremely well. Both Joshua and Jeremie Catulusi are two of the best defensive backs that have came through the city of Ottawa, and there’s not a lot of people that know about them just yet, but its just a matter of time before they are talked about around Canada, and even across the border as well.
Both of the Catulusi twins starred this past season with NCAFA’s Nepean Broncos in their undefeated 10-0 season which ended in a loss in North York against the undefeated Essex Ravens in the first ever Ontario Provincial Championship. Coached by Scott Boxall, the Broncos were by far the best team in the city of Ottawa, having won the city Championship in a one sided 28-8 victory over the Cumberland Panthers, but a lot of the team’s success wouldn’t have come without the defensive play, led by Joshua and Jeremie. Joshua played cornerback, while Jeremie served as a half back on the same side of the football field. They called their side of the field, “The Strong Side” and they showed exactly why it is the strong side throughout the entire season.
In the 10 games played, Joshua Catulusi, who stands at 6-foot-3, 175 pounds was targeted at 15 times, breaking up 10 of the passes and allowed just three catches. On top of that he caused a disruption for opposing offences, making double digit tackles on the season, and 2 tackles for loss. From the stats, you may think he is just a lockdown corner, and he is a lockdown corner back, but he also has a very good football I.Q and is able to use his mental part of the game to make plays as well. After training with the twins over the summer, Ottawa’s Coach Jean Guillaume was able to watch some of the Nepean Broncos games in the fall, he talked about how Joshua’s smarts can help a defence, “he plays very smart. He is able to make decisions mid play, which is crucial as a defensive back and is something as a coach is beautiful to see. I remember there was a play where they threw a screen pass on his side of the field and instead of going into coverage, as he saw the play develop he bursted through his block and made the play, and not only did he make the play, but he finished it.” Guillaume explained, “a lot of DBs can read plays or set themselves up to make a play, but Joshua has the physicality to finish the play as well. He plays with heart and is a physical DB, something that offences don’t like. I was proud to see how he played this year, and how he was able to use his techniques and apply them to game time situations.”
Along with his lockdown ability, ability to read and finish plays, Joshua Catulusi is known to bring intensity to any defence he is on. He talks up a game with the opposing receivers, hypes up his teammates around him and all around brings positive energy to the teams he is on, something he’s done since he first stepped on a football field at 11 years old with the Bell Warriors. When asked about the energy he brings to a defence he said, “I bring excitement. When I step on the field I am hype and I want to make sure the people around me are too. I love to compete, my passion is incomparable. I remember there was one practice I was so hyped, I don’t remember why but I was barking at the receivers, and the team loved it, they fed off my energy. I like to scare my opposing receiver and quarterback before the play starts, make sure I stand out and then when it comes time for the play to start thats when I like to prove myself. My goal when I play is to prove myself every single play and make sure I turn up the team around me.”
As for Jeremie Catulusi, at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds he lined up mainly at half back this fall with the Nepean Broncos, making his presence felt on “The Strong Side” he led the entire city of Ottawa in turnovers. With his height, he towers over the majority of opposing receivers, and becomes a threat to quarterbacks the second he steps foot on the field, and if you go back to when he first started to play football, he’s always had a height advantage. Starting to play football at 11 years old with NCAFA’s Bell Warriors with his brother, playing a few seasons there as well as with the Ottawa Sooners in the OPFL, Jeremie over the years has been good with facing competition. He said in an interview with JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic, “Playing city ball was a good warm up for me. It got me introduced to football and I had fun learning about all of the different positions I can play, but when I started to play more competitively, with the Sooners I felt like I was competing more and having more to play for and as soon as I adjusted myself to that competition I’ve been on the top of my game. Since then I’ve been really working hard and I know I have gotten a lot better.”
Getting better, Jeremie Catulusi has developed into a lockdown defensive back himself, like his brother Joshua. He considers himself a ballhawk, and so does Coach Jean Guillaume who spent time with him during the off-season and has watched him play a number of times. Guillaume emphasized, “his side, with Joshua is on lockdown. He has great length as a defensive back, something that you don’t see often. He is a prototype defensive play maker and you can see that no matter the receiver he is up against, he can win the 1 on 1 battle.” Talking about Jeremie’s size and athleticism, Guillaume also told JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic, “the game is always changing. We have receivers now that are tall and run the fastest on the team, and you’re going to need DBs to cover them. These Megatron receivers, who have size and speed need to be stopped some how, and both J.R and Joshua are proving that they can lineup against those receivers.”
Someone else that spent time with the Catulusi’s like Guillaume was Sherrod Baltimore, defensive back for the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks. Baltimore attended some of the trainings that Guillaume put on with the Catulusi twins in Ottawa and helped coach them up on some techniques. From what he saw of them at training and on film from the 2021 fall season that they played he said, regarding Jeremie Catulusi, “He has great size for a DB. Tall, lanky (long wingspan). Great ball skills, does a good job tracking the ball in the air. Has good footwork, and hips.” As for Joshua he said, “He’s physical. Has decent ball skills, good footwork, moves his hips well and really has good awareness on the field to make a play.”
Jeremie, in addition to what he can do as a defensive back, locking down receivers and making plays on the football as a ball hawk, also has a special skill set on special teams. Since he was young he’s been returning kickoffs and punts, having been the fastest on all of the teams he’s played on, and he continues to serve as a returner, but he’s also accomplished a lot on kickoff team and even blocking on the kickoff return team which its shown on film. Jeremie said, “Special teams is where I thrive. My favourite thing to do in football is return kicks and punts, and really every team I’m on, offence, defence or special teams I will make sure I’m the best on it, no matter my role on it.”
In the fall 2021 season with the Nepean Broncos, it happened twice where Jeremie would play on the kickoff team, as the ball was kicked the minimum 10 yards, he would run and catch the onside kick. Once over a few players on the return team, and the other all alone in space. Those two plays, and more are available to see on his season highlight reel made by JZ Media and it really displays his ability to do it all as a player, something he and his brother will be asked to do at the next level, and that is exactly the plan. Both Jeremie and Joshua have the goal to play at the highest level of football that they can, and no mater what level that is, what team they land with or what the coaches decide for them, they will prove exactly why they deserve it, like they have already.
When asked about the goal moving forward, Joshua Catulusi said, “I want to play at the highest level there is. I know I can play there, I just need the opportunity. This off-season will be big for me, I will be working very hard on perfecting my craft and will make sure that I am the best player possible. I have division one dreams, but no matter who gets me, I know I’m going to be a blessing to their defence.”
Jeremie Catulusi added to the conversation, “I will play at the next level, and I’ll do whatever it takes to lock it down there too. I know I’m big for a DB, so I’m going to work on being versatile and get strong to play other positions like linebacker and even on offence at tight end or receiver. I’ll do whatever I can to be at the top, I know I can play there.”
“They play with confidence. They have size, something you can’t teach, they have the heart, and they play physical. Both J.R and Joshua will play at a high level, and I’m going to help with the process to get there.” Coach Jean Guillaume said, “I will support them with what they want to do, and go about it how they’d like because it is there future. Right now they are looking to play prep school and then play division one football, we will check the boxes because they belong at the next level.”