Just before Christmas, the Ottawa Redblacks made a move that leaves a large impact on the entire CFL. Yes, they signed a couple of free agents including Canadians Will Corby and Shaiheem Charles-Brown, but the big move was hiring general manager Shawn Burke. Burke will be the second general manager in franchise history, after the firing of Marcel Desjardins, and he is excited for the opportunity, but why is that?
“What excites me is the ownership commitment level.” he told Jordan Zlomislic in his opening press conference as the Redblacks general manager, “And its not just a commitment about the OSEG family, its a commitment to the community and I’m passionate about that. I wouldn’t be in this business if it didn’t start with community relations. Its one of the things that I admire about Coach LaPo as he jumps head first into the community. I know both of us will make it a priority for our players and staff as well.”
He continued, “Its never lost on me what this league means to Canadians and as a proud Canadian I take that responsibility very, very highly. I want to help grow this league with others in this organization and you know we will be out in the community. It won’t be an ask, it will be a requirement, because thats what the CFL is about. Its what drew me in from day one in 2007 and its been a calling card of our league. Its what makes our league different.”
The CFL has not been the same for over two years now, having a 2020 cancelled season and a shortened 2021 season full of rules, making it a big year for the Ottawa Redblacks and the CFL in 2022. A big year for the first year as a general manager for Shawn Burke. He said, “This year was obviously a bit of a different year with the tier one and everything going on and I know it has an impact on our players. Our players love being a part of our communities. Its what makes it more true to what they fell in love with in high school and college. And you know, to bring that sense of community back hopefully in different times next year, will be exciting and will be a priority and I’m just happy to come to a city like Ottawa… and to be a part of this community.”
In the community that Burke will be entering in the nation’s capital, there has been a growth for football. For the last couple of years alone the number of Ottawa-raised players that have made it to the next level, whether that be U-Sports, NCAA, NFL or CFL has skyrocketed and its not like the football will be getting worse. Its just going to keep growing, and when asked about being a part of the football community in Ottawa, Burke acknowledged the growth of talent in the city and how he may like to get some local talent for the Ottawa Redblacks moving forward. “Its imperative, right?” he said, “You want to be in a community that embraces the sport of football. And, you know, when it comes to having players from this community, I think our league coast to coast has always been one that wants to identify with certain local demographics of players that succeeded and it gives, you know, however long ago, maybe 30 years ago someone like myself who think they are athletes, something to strive for and thats what’s important.”
Burke concluded, “I know there’s several Ottawa players that have been drafted to the NFL, that are going great things in the NCAA and its just a credit to the sporting community that Ottawa is, its proud in its sports tradition and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
This off-season is a perfect opportunity for Shawn Burke to connect with the city of Ottawa, not only by being a part of the community but even bringing in that local talent he’s talked about. Set to become free agents in February are Ottawa-raised, and Ottawa stars Tunde Adeleke and Jackson Bennett, who both played with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Burke’s former organization. Adeleke, former Carleton Raven has been a CFL in back to back seasons and has been in the Grey Cup game every single year he has played in the league, twice with Calgary and twice with Hamilton. With a potential hole in the defensive backfield, with Antoine Pruneau, Abdul Kanneh and Randall Evans each remaining as pending free agents, Adeleke, who is a ball hawk and an effective tackler, may be a great pickup for the Redblacks. Bennett on the other hand is, and has been a do it all player since he started playing football here in Ottawa. With the University of Ottawa Gee Gees he played nearly everywhere on the defensive side of the ball, and returned kicks. He was drafted as a linebacker, and moved to running back where he’s has some success with a small window of opportunity. Bennett and Adeleke are both going to be 26 years old when the 2022 CFL season kicks off, meaning that they have plenty of football left in them both, and why not play in back in their hometown.
Also available for the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks this off-season, through the CFL Draft would be Ottawa’s Very Own Jesse Luketa if he is not picked up by an NFL team, which is very likely after his standout career at Penn State, ending at the Senior Bowl in February. Maine defensive back Katley Joseph, who played with the Cumberland Panthers, and St Matthews Tigers in Ottawa, University of Ottawa running back J.P Cimankinda who is looked at to be a Canadian version of NFL power back Derrick Henry, from the Redblacks’ backyard, University of Ottawa linebacker James Peter, receiver Dylan St Pierre and Carleton Ravens running back Nathan Carter as well as Penn State defensive back Jonathan Sutherland.
The Redblacks will draft 2nd, 11th, 20th (territorial), 22nd, 31st, 40th, 49th, 58th, and 67th overall in the 2022 CFL Draft. If he sticks to what he said in his opening press conference with the Ottawa Redblacks, R-Nation can expect a couple of locally raised players on his draft board come spring.