Rourke, Claypool, Luketa, Mesidor, Robinson, Mardner, Kolenge, Boucard; the growth of Canadian football through the eyes of JZ Media

As of recently, many football minds and people around the game of football have noticed that the word “Canadian” has become more popular in their vocabulary than ever before.

In the past, Canadians were known to take over the game of hockey. Outside of hockey, many questioned the Canadians athletically. There weren’t many Canadian athletes dominating other sports, and more specifically there were next to zero Canadians dominating the game of football.

The CFL has always been filled with Canadians, the developmental leagues in Canada have always talent, and every now and then odd Canadian would find his way across the border, but until the 1990s, there weren’t many superstar Canadian football players that could make a global impact like we are seeing today.

We are midway through the 2022 CFL season and all of Canada is talking about B.C Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke who may arguably be the best Canadian quarterback we have ever seen step on a football field. With all of the traits you want in a quarterback, from the arm, to the decision making, to even the legs to make a break for a long run, Rourke, who grew up in Oakville, Ontario is tearing up the CFL. 7 games into the season, two less than a number of other players in the league, Rourke leads the CFL in passing yards and touchdowns and has an unbelievable 81.3% completion percentage on 230 attempts while rushing for an additional 233 yards and 5 scores which also just so happens to be the second most rushing touchdowns in the CFL.

Rourke is getting a lot of love across the CFL, and really across the football world right now because of how well he has played in his first season as a starting quarterback and at just 24 years old it wouldn’t be a surprise if the NFL calls his name after this 2022 CFL season with the B.C Lions.

(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/BC Lions)

Also having success in the CFL would include veteran Canadian running back Andrew Harris who has proven himself to be one of the best running backs in CFL history, just recently putting his name into the record books as a 10,000 yard rusher and moving up to 4th all-time in yards from scrimmage in the CFL. Harris’ former teammate Brady Olivera from Winnipeg is also having a good season for himself as he and the Blue Bombers continue their undefeated streak of games. Olivera has gained a total 592 yards on 121 offensive touches thus far this season, and with a 9-0 record, it looks like he will be getting a lot more touches moving forward.

A few other Canadian talents getting offensive touches across the CFL and making names for themselves would include Kurleigh Gittens Jr, a Guyana-born, Ottawa-raised receiver for the Toronto Argonauts, Kian Schaffer-Baker, Nate Behar and Jevon Cottoy.

With so many more Canadians showing out for themselves in the CFL, including players like Mathieu Betts and Marc-Antoine Dequoy on the defensive side of the ball, it is proven that the CFL is getting filled with more Canadian talent, but so has the NFL, and that is what is getting the attention of the world.

Heading into the 2022 NFL pre-season there are over 30 Canadians ready to hit the field which is an all-time high in the NFL.

The list includes NFL stars Chase Claypool of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jevon Holland for the Miami Dolphins, Neville Gallimore of the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Chargers’ Joshua Palmer and David Onyemata for the New Orleans Saints who are in for a big season in 2022.

Other names like Chuba Hubbard, Benjamin St Juste, Tevaughn Campbell, Brent Urban and Dakoda Shepley have also gathered attention across the NFL, but it shouldn’t be a surprise if the newly signed Canadians are the ones gathering all of the attention this NFL season.

Drafted in this year’s NFL Draft was Ottawa’s Very Own, Jesse Luketa, a linebacker/edge rusher out of Penn State to the Arizona Cardinals, and defensive back Deane Leonard to the Los Angeles Chargers out of Ole Miss. (John Metchie who was drafted to the Houston Texans as well is to miss the 2022 NFL season as he was recently diagnosed with Leukaemia.)

Luketa is a player to watch in the NFL from Ottawa.

Sure, you’ve already got a list of players to watch from Jevon Holland all the way down to Joshua Palmer, and even Chuba Hubbard, but after seeing what Luketa was able to do against some of the best players in the 2022 NFL Draft at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, it only excites me to know what could be possible in the NFL. In the four seasons played at Penn State he played a total 38 career games, capping his career off with 61 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, a sack and a pick six as a senior. He is a complete linebacker. With the ability to not only read plays and stop the run like a traditional linebacker, but also with the ability to go into coverage, and even play on the line and go after the quarterback.

Coming out of Penn State, Luketa isn’t expected to have a large role right away with the Cardinals, but with his versatility and a good start to training camp he should definitely make his presence felt in the NFL for the Cardinals.

A player that has trained with Luketa before, and has dreams of maybe being a teammate of Luketa’s in the future in the NFL should also be watched by many this fall. That would be Boston College linebacker and edge rusher Edwin Tara Kolenge from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Tara Kolenge is a true freshman for the Eagles, going into what could very well be a big freshman campaign as a 4-star linebacker, and a top recruit for the Eagles from the 2022 class, and Kolenge is a perfect example for the Canadian talent around the NCAA, and more specifically the power five conferences.

Some players that are in for big seasons this fall, that may find themselves in professional camps around this time next year would include Ole Miss’ Tavius Robinson, Geoff Cantin-Arku from Memphis, Boise State edge rusher Isaiah Bagnah, Penn State’s Jonathan Sutherland, Illinois’ Chase and Sydney Brown, Pittsburgh’s Jared Wayne, D.K Bonhomme out of South Alabama, and TCU’s Lwal Uguak, all big time players at big time schools, ready to take on the next level in the NFL, and/or CFL.

There is also Akeem Mesidor at Miami, Wesley Bailey and Rene Konga at Rutgers, Nick Mardner at Cincinnati, Ajou Ajou at USF, Brandon Barrow at Stanford, Malick Meiga and Christian Veilleux at Penn State and so many more players set to have a big year from Canada in the NCAA, and there is so many more players on the rise to get there for the future as well.

The future is extremely bright for Canadian football, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Canada truly becomes a football country. Especially with players like 15 year old Floyd Boucard from Montreal on the come up.

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