Since they were in middle school they have been working hard to get to this point in their football careers and most importantly their lives. Now, Ottawa-raised football players Patrice Rene and Luiji Vilain get the chance to hear their names called into the NFL this week. Many people ask both of them what it feels like to be in this situation but ultimately Rene says, “This is where we are supposed to be.” during a workout prior to the 2022 NFL Draft which kicks off this Thursday in Las Vegas, Nevada, Rene told JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic, “This is the next step of the process.” in detail, “this is what we’ve been working for for so long. People think ‘how does it feel’ well it feels crazy but really its meant to be. This is where we are supposed to be. This is what we worked hard for to do, it is just the next step of the process. We started here (Gridiron Academy) went to high school, from high school we went to college and from college we are going to the league. It’s all written.”
Rene, after first attending St. Peter’s Catholic High School in Orleans for high school and playing there as well as the East Ottawa Generals, Orleans Bengals and the Gridiron Academy 7 on 7 teams went to high school in Alexandria, Virginia at Episcopal School. Following in his footsteps one year later was Luiji Vilain who played North Gloucester Giants and Cumberland Panthers for club ball while attending Lester B Pearson High School in Ottawa and training with Gridiron Academy. The move to the United States for high school was a good move and will go down as “the best decision” made by Patrice Rene as it gathered a lot of interest for the two of them, and others to play at the post secondary level, and more specifically the power 5 level.
For University the two started their careers at Michigan (Luiji Vilain) and North Carolina (Patrice Rene). Out of the gate Rene starred as a defensive back for the Tarheels. Playing as a true freshman and having success early on it looked like it could have been an easy road to the NFL from the University of North Carolina, but things took a turn in 2019 when he tore his ACL, sidelining him for a full season. Just as he got back to 100% and could play once again the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans for his football career. With facilities shut down and a shortened 2020 season nothing seemed normal for Rene’s recovery and return to the football field which then took him to the 2021 season that he spent with the Rutgers Scarlett Knights. Using his last year of eligibility in the NCAA he was able to appear in 5 games and made a total 8 tackles for the Scarlett Knights. The numbers may not be flashy, but showing glimpses of greatness each and every time he stepped on the field throughout the season, and continuing to prove himself, he solidified his spot in the NFL Draft and could be looked at as a late draft pick on Saturday for a team in need of a lock down cornerback.
As for Luiji Vilain, he has a similar story coming out of Ottawa. When Rene talked about being in the NFL Draft he chimed in on the conversation saying, “Ever since we started working out with Vic from Gridiron Academy we knew we were going to be here, its just a matter of keep working.”
Out of high school Vilain was a highly recruited 4-star defensive end. He had 30 plus college offers and it seemed as if every school in the country wanted their hands on him, including the Alabama Crimson Tide. He ended up committing to the Michigan Wolverines, where he would spend the next four years. Over his time as a Wolverine he was able to play alongside a number of great players, and really learn from some of the best in football, but unfortunately he did not see a lot of time on the field. Fighting injuries and playing behind two highly touted NFL Draft prospects Aidan Hutchinson and Kwity Paye he was only able to play in 12 games at Michigan, making 11 total tackles, one sack and forced one fumble. Like Rene, the numbers were not flashy, but Vilain kept working and gathered a lot of interest once he hit the transfer portal last year. He found a new home with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and did not look back when he landed. Vilain made a total 10 sacks on the year as a grad transfer and shook the entire ACC, even having two sacks on Kenny Pickett in the ACC Championship game.
It took time for Vilain to shine, but the 2021 season spent with the Demon Deacons proved that all good things come with time. The time is now for Vilain and Rene.
Watch a workout video and vlog filmed by JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic of both Patrice Rene and Luiji Vilain as they prepare to be NFL players in a YouTube video above, and hear them talk about their journey, as well as the position they are in today as NFL Draft prospects from Ottawa.
The talent from Ottawa is only getting better. With Patrice Rene, Luiji Vilain, and Jesse Luketa solidifying their spots in this year’s NFL Draft, and Katley Joseph, J.P Cimankinda and Deionte Knight making their ways to the CFL in the CFL Draft on May 3rd, the proof is in the pudding.