The city of Ottawa as of recently has been known to have some premier defensive linemen. Three of the four players to make it to the NFL from Ottawa have been defensive tackles. Neville Gallimore and Eli Ankou are both in the league putting on for the nation’s capital as we speak but sooner than later there will be more than just the two of them. Defensive tackle Ebenezer Dibula from Ottawa who measured at 6-foot-3, 285 pounds last season when he played at Clearwater Academy International in Florida is headed off to play division one football with Bethune Cookman University. Dibula is one of two Ottawa-raised athletes playing football for BCU in the fall as he prepares to be reunited with defensive back Benjamin Chombe.
Bethune Cookman is getting a quick off the line, strong, smart and hungry football player in Dibula and he has already caught the eyes of CFL’s Montreal Alouettes defensive tackle Michael Wakefield. Wakefield, who has spent 3 seasons in Ottawa with the league’s Ottawa Redblacks has yet to see Ebenezer Dibula in person but on film he describes him saying, “He’s big so they’re going to put him on the line but when you watch him you can tell that he is a great player. He moves fast for his size and he also does a good job of using his hands and can get away from the blockers very well.”
Dibula also caught the eyes of Sports Illustrated All-American writer John Garcia Jr from the games he watched in person at Clearwater Academy International. He said, “He is a great player.” and “You can tell that he has played on the offensive line as well because he does a great job reading the plays and given his size and speed it shows that he can read plays effectively.” As he prepares for the next opportunity to play football which will now be at the big stage at the division one level Ebenezer Dibula has been busy training and making sure he is at the best of his ability when he gets back to Florida, but overall he is super excited. Talking to Jordan Zlomislic of JZ Media following a training session he took part in with the College de Vieux Montreal CEGEP football team in Montreal Dibula commented, “I am super excited to get back to Florida…I am excited to compete at the division one level.”
Watch Ebenezer Dibula very closely as he continues to strive across the Canada-USA border because in no time he will be playing on the same fields as Gallimore and Ankou who are Ottawa-raised defensive tackles in the NFL right now.
At 6-foot, 200 pounds Ottawa safety Shakespeare Louis is ready to make an impact at the NCAA division one level with Robert Morris University. He is described as “the most complete defensive player out there” by Coach Jean Guillaume who has mentored him on and off of the football field in Ottawa. He says, “He can play everywhere. I remember having him at linebacker, free safety, strong safety, defensive back, halfback, nickel and the best part about him is that not only is he the hardest hitter on the teams he’s on but he can also go into coverage.” The quote is from a JZ Media interview in January as a part of the Ottawa High School Football scouting reports that Jordan Zlomislic had put together, however the context remains the same in a recent interview with Louis himself.
After training with CEGEP College Vieux Montreal in Montreal on Saturday alongside other Ottawa rising stars Brice Ebaneth and Ebenezer Dibula Shakespeare Louis was asked about the player that Robert Morris can expect out of him come the fall, his answer: “They can expect a really hard hitting safety. I am not afraid to hit thats for sure.” but overall he is excited. He said to Zlomislic of JZ Media, “I am excited show what I can do.”
Eventhough he is a Canadian coming from the city of Ottawa Louis has two years of experience with the Clearwater Academy International Knights in Clearwater, Florida where he played “some of the best competition in the nation.” in his words, “It was a great experience for me to get exposure and show out of what I can do.” During the two seasons with the Knights he played under head coach Jesse Chinchar and played alongside fellow division one stars Akheem Mesidor, Brendon Barrow, Ajou Ajou, Geri Theodore, Ludovick Choquette, Tristan Marois, Albert Reese, Nickolas Tshivuadi, Ebenezer Dibula and more while also making a large impact of his own. In his final 5 games with the team he made a total 32 tackles, two interceptions and scored two touchdowns. He is clearly a big playmaker on the defensive side of the ball and given his flexibility to play anywhere on the defence and be consistent doing so he is set to be a big time player for the Robert Morris University football team starting as early as this fall when they kickoff their 2021 season.
Over the recent years there has been a large growth and expansion in the talent on the football fields in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The nation’s capital has produced dozens of college football players, and even some professionals as of recent. Neville Gallimore and Eli Ankou each represent the city on the big stage in the NFL and on the rise to do the same is class of 2024 defensive athlete Brice Ebaneth.
Ebaneth is set to attend Kiski School in Saltsburg, Pennsylvania alongside Ottawa linebacker Maleek Russell who played there in 2020 and has had success playing football previously in Ottawa. He has played previously with the Nepean Eagles in NCAFA and the Ottawa Sooners in the OPFL but is ready to play on a bigger stage, he says, “I can’t wait to play at Kiski School to be able to get more exposure and opportunity to play against the top competition.”
At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds Ebaneth is a tall cornerback with plenty of potential. He has recently trained with both Coach Jean Guillaume of Maroons Academy in Ottawa and Limitless Era’s Iseah Montgiraud where he has gotten himself right in the football I.Q category, he’s gotten his fundamentals down and even improved his speed and abilities. Division one athletes Katley Joseph, Kervens Bonhomme and more have gone through similar training in Ottawa as well as CFL Ottawa Redblacks defensive backs Abdul Kanneh and Sherrod Baltimore.
Just recently he was able to showcase his talents in Montreal, taking part in the College Vieux Montreal Football practice on Saturday with Coach Jean Guillaume two division one athletes from Ottawa Ebenezer Dibula and Shakespeare Louis. NFL Draft pick Benjamin St Juste who is also a defensive back played with the CVM Spartans when he was in CEGEP prior to playing out his NCAA division one career with the Michigan Wolverines and Minnesota Gophers.
On New Year’s Day in 2016 the Florida Gators played the Michigan Wolverines in the 70th annual Citrus Bowl. The 14th ranked Wolverines won in a 41-7 blowout over the 19th ranked Gators thanks to headlining performances of quarterback Jake Rudock, running back De’Veon Smith and receiver Jehu Chesson. Despite this game being a large achievement for all of the Michigan Wolverines players and a large defeat for the Gators, the 2016 Citrus Bowl marks a big shift in the life of former Florida Gators’ quarterback Joshua Grady. This game was Grady’s last football game. He completed 1 pass for 7 yards to now NFL receiver Antonio Callaway but that had nothing to do with what happened next. Over the span of 4 seasons in the SEC Joshua Grady ran the ball 14 times for just 38 yards, caught 8 passes for 114 yards and completed 6 of 11 passes for 44 yards while throwing 2 interceptions. His numbers aren’t eye opening and didn’t create any professional football opportunities, taking his dream of one day playing in the NFL out of the picture but his dream of being around the game of football remained in the picture, he said in an interview with JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic, “When I realized in 2015 that I wasn’t going to the NFL I knew I wanted to be around the game and I only needed to know how.” Joshua Grady may not have heard his name called on his draft night the way he may have envisioned it to be when he first signed his letters of intent at Vanderbilt University in 2012 but he was in fact in attendance at the 2015 NFL Draft. He was there with his father (Woodrow Grady) and god-brother Dante Fowler Jr who was drafted 3rd overall being represented by the late Eugene Parker. Grady said, “It was graduation week and my friends were planning on going to Panama City Beach but my dad was going to the Draft and said I could either go to the beach with my friends and do that or go to the NFL Draft. I went to the Draft and that experience introduced me to the idea of being an agent. Seeing what Eugene (Parker, Dante Fowler’s agent and friend of Woodrow Grady) was doing, he really set the template for me.”
Setting the template for him, Eugene Parker who represented NFL superstars Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Hines Ward, Rod Woodson, Derrick Brooks, Larry Fitzgerald and more was going to be Joshua Grady’s role model and mentor going into his career as a sports agent. Parker was extremely well known by the public, having success representing some of the NFL’s best players and breaking barriers as an African American sports agent. Grady had said, “Seeing Eugene really painted the picture for me and I wanted to follow in his footsteps.” For Joshua Grady, being mentored and groomed into a career as a sports agent by one of the best to do it in Eugene Parker would have been a perfect scenario and would have been a great start however he had to do it on his own early on. Unfortunately Parker had passed away with cancer in 2016, putting the idea of Joshua being groomed by him as an agent to rest and leaving Joshua by himself to launch his career on his own but at the time he still wasn’t sure if being a sports agent was for him. “I didn’t know I was going to be an agent until I took the (NFLPA Agent) exam.” he told Zlomislic, “Going into it I didn’t know too much about the agent industry. I just saw Eugene (Parker) doing his thing, did some marketing (with JABEZ Marketing Group) and it seemed interesting.”
Following the NFLPA Agent Exam and previously spending time around Eugene Parker as well as the people at JABEZ Marketing Group Joshua Grady had started his own agency, Grady Sports Agency and even-though he may not have been fully informed about what being a sports agent really entails, within just the first year of becoming a certified NFLPA agent he got his first client drafted. Just 15 months after his last college football game as a part of the Florida Gators Grady had his client Leon McQuay iii drafted in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. “In that year there were a lot of learning lessons.” he said, “When I signed Leon all I knew was that you pay for his training, go to his pro day and hope he gets drafted so I learned a lot that year.” McQuay was a 2 year starter for the University of Southern California, making 50 tackles, 4 for a loss, one sack and intercepting one pass over 13 games in his senior year. With his success in the PAC-12 with USC Leon McQuay was talked about leading into the Draft, at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds he was looked at as a nickel that has explosive qualities for the NFL game and he was a great player for Grady to represent in his first year. “One of the biggest things I learned in that first year was that, Leon got drafted by the Chiefs and I never talked to the Chiefs, 95% of this is your client.” Grady explained, “They are the ones running the 40 yard dash, talking to teams pre-draft and going through the entire process so when Leon was drafted I didn’t necessarily feel like I deserved it because I didn’t do anything, I didn’t know what to do, like he had his (East-West) Shrine game and I didn’t go because I didn’t know agents were supposed to go. The first year taught me a lot, I didn’t really enjoy it because I was so new to it and I didn’t know too much but it broke a lot of misconceptions I had for the agent field. It was very eye-opening.”
Leon McQuay was drafted 218th overall in the 6th round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs marking Joshua Grady and Grady Sports Agency’s first ever NFL Draft pick. The next year Joshua represented Jordan Wilkins who was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, followed by Byron Coward a 5th round pick by the New England Patriots in 2019, Falcons’ 2020 7th rounder Sterling Hofrichter as well as both Jason Pinnock and Grant Stuard who got the call during the 2021NFL Draft. Grady Sports Agency has had a client drafted in each of the last 5 NFL drafts. When asked about that streak and the success he’s had Joshua had stated, “It’s humbling to be where we are. It shows me that other people can do it. Thats why with my podcast (Agent Talk Podcast) and my classes (Agent Academy) I try to show that you can do it too.” he continued, “There’s no secret sauce or secret recipe that you have to have. It’s just by being intentional and having some guidance so that you can avoid the pitfalls that I fell into when I was starting out because the opportunities are endless in this field.” Not only are the opportunities in the sports industry endless but Joshua Grady has been consistently furthering his opportunities.
While representing a number of professional football players and growing Grady Sports Agency to one day be a house hold name Joshua Grady has been building his personal brand and expanding his audience. Doing so he has launched a digital marketing company in Grady Media, a podcast in The Agent Talk Podcast and an Agent Academy. Each of the three startups have helped his name get out there more not only as an NFL agent but as an entrepreneur and a hustler having also dabbled in some side incomes like dog sitting, Uber eats and investing. Doing these things and also being a former collegiate athlete with both Vanderbilt and Florida has made Grady more relatable for football players, giving him what should be an advantage when it comes to signing a player and building a relationship with a player. “People want to work with someone that they can relate to in some sort of way and I’ve noticed that every client that I have signed with has connected with me with something.” Grady mentioned, “I think it’s very important to have something to connect and bond over with someone because it builds a trust factor and sets a comfortability level. For a lot of these guys they feel poached, agents just want something from them and that is the case a lot of the time where these young men are seen as just cheques by some agents so if you can build that relationship and establish that synergy with them it will carry you for years and it’s rewarding when you have success with someone that you know has your back.” It’s only been 5 years since Joshua had started his career as a sports agent but the amount of people he’s come across and built connections with in those five years is extremely impressive. He has been able to not only expand his companies that he’s started but also his network, giving him the ability to continue to grow and prepare for a future, a bright future.
The bright future of Joshua Grady, Grady Sports Agency, Grady Media and The Agent Talk Podcast has been and will continue to be in the works as opportunities come. Right now, following the NCAA’s rule change where student athletes can now profit from their name, image and likeness Grady and his team at both GSA and Grady Media have been busy making sure that the athletes make the right decisions moving forward with their careers on and off of the football field while also preparing for what’s next. “The N.I.L is our main focus right now, we’re working with some athletes to help them grow their platform to benefit them not only for their university careers but also what comes after.” Joshua Grady said when asked about his future plans, “I want to continue to grow Grady Media. The majority of projects we’ve had have been with individuals such as athletes so I would like to market companies, brands, organizations, teams and have events for Grady Media that could get us more into the community because my main goal is to entrench ourselves into different places, cities and even countries with two of our guys playing in the CFL this year so this year I want to expand and sharpen what we are already doing while also having another successful NFL Draft next year.”
Touching on next year’s NFL Draft, what would be the 6th in Grady Sports Agency history he had also said, “We have a lot of momentum right now. I want to keep our draft class small so probably no more than 5 GSA players but we’ve got a good group that if they had to sign today would be big signings for us because we are about the quality over quantity. A quality 3 players would be perfect because we are shooting for a high pick this year. I don’t see why we can’t. I just want to continue to progress and that would be a huge progression for us and one I am excited about because I know the value we provide and there are not a lot of agencies as a whole that are doing what we’re doing.” Everything that both Joshua and his companies do they do it big, making it that much more exciting for all football fans to see what he as an up and coming agent can do to change the game. He’s already scratching the surface for changing how people think about marketing around athletes and it won’t be too long before he is a house hold name for not only football fans but sports fans in general with the sky being the limit for everything he does.
This off-season has been extremely long for a number of CFL players. Some hadn’t played since the league closed its 2019 season in November of 2019, some haven’t played in over two years due to injuries and cancelled seasons and then there are a group of players that have played in different leagues since November of 2019. For wide receiver Jalen Tolliver who had been signed by the Edmonton Elks this off-season his only football action recently came during the XFL season in 2020. In the XFL Tolliver played 5 games, leading the Tampa Bay Vipers in receiving with 21 catches for 297 yards and a touchdown but since the COVID-19 Pandemic forced the league to pause its operations in March of 2020 he hasn’t played a real football game. “It was tough to have the season shut down.” he said, “I was having some success and really getting back into it but over the year off I’ve learnt a lot. It’s been a grind on and off of the field.”
On the football field, the Arkansas-Monticello product has been aiming to get better and get back to the player he was when he was granted the opportunity to play in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans. Doing so he has been consistently working on his techniques at the wide receiver position and has been able to put the techniques to work against defensive backs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in Texas with Craig LeBlanc’s 2 Live Late Night Crew. Over the off-season LeBlanc, who coaches quarterbacks and other skill position players of all levels in the Dallas, Texas area had put on sessions every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, continuing those sessions until players are busy with their teams. The 2 Live Late Night Crew sessions give athletes of any position, mostly quarterbacks, receivers and defensive backs the opportunity to put what they have learnt and worked on with other coaches into game scenarios. For Tolliver it has been a big help during the off-season to get back into game ready shape and be ready to take on the CFL’s defensive backs as he enters training camp this week. “It was everything that I needed.” Toliver told JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic, “I’m thankful for Craig and them that put the sessions on. 2 Live had lots of great runs and we all got better. I am looking forward to the opportunity I have in Edmonton to show that I can still ball because the game means the world to me.”
Off of the football field, leading up to the call he received by the Edmonton Elks informing him that he’s been signed by the team and that he’s suppose to report for training camp in July Jalen Tolliver has been staying busy. He started working at foot locker over the pandemic which was then followed by a job he got at a local high school in the Dallas area where he served as a creative recovery teacher. He says, “I want to get into teaching in the future to be able to teach the younger generation and to give them what I didn’t get at that age.” With just a few hours left in his course at Arkansas-Monticello he looks forward to a career in teaching after he gets his degree and is done his playing career.
Tolliver kicks off his first ever CFL training camp this week and will battle for a spot on the Edmonton Elks roster as a 6-foot-3, big body receiver. If he does make the roster he will play his very first game on August 7th when he and the Elks would host the Ottawa Redblacks. On the Ottawa Redblacks is linebacker Denzel Johnson and receiver Jordan Smallwood who like Tolliver attended a few of Craig LeBlanc’s 2 Live Late Night Crew sessions over the off-season.
Recently the growth of football in Canada has come public. A number of Canadians have now made it across the border to the NFL and the NCAA to pair with the talent that has stayed in the country with the CFL and CIS which has helped give the younger generation of football players in Canada the idea that they can make it in the sport. One young athlete from Montreal, Quebec, Canada that is on his way to do major things in the game of football is Kenzy Paul. Paul, a 6-foot-1 defensive back announced his commitment to Vanderbilt University this week, just weeks following Edwin Tara-Kolenge’s decision to play at Boston College in 2022. Tara-Kolenge, like Paul is from Montreal and is a perfect example of the evolution of football talent in Canada. Talking about the talent he has surrounded himself with and the growth he’s seen in the group Kenzy Paul said, “It is amazing to see the amount of guys getting opportunities from Canada and they all deserve it. We all work super hard and overcome so many obstacles to get to the highest level possible and I have seen it with some guys I play with and I’m looking forward to seeing the talent continue to grow.”
Paul’s decision to go to Vanderbilt University comes just a month following his visit there and that was what sold him on being a Commodore. “At the visit I had a crazy good connection with the coaches and what stuck out to me the most is that they have bought into winning.” Paul explained, “At first when I started my recruiting process I just wanted to go to a school and win. I didn’t think of Vanderbilt of a school I’d go to but I realized that the decision should come down to where you fit the best and where you can actually see yourself being. Vanderbilt hasn’t won a lot recently but they have a new coaching staff and the players have really bought into the winning culture that they are building and I want to win with them.”
After spending time with Tennessee’s McCallie School Paul has earned 3 stars and his decision to commit to Vanderbilt goes over Duke, and Cincinnati who were his other top options alongside other offers he had in Tennessee, Ole Miss, Indiana, Penn State, Virginia, Michigan State, Tulane, Toledo and Missouri. He said, “I’m very excited to be committed to Vanderbilt. I am going to continue to work my tail off and when I hit the field the fans can expect the best from me.” Paul, despite being able to play both receiver and defensive back is expected to suit up on defence at defensive back for the Commodores in 2022.
For the most part of CFL players, when they hit the field in August it will mark close to 20 months since they were on the field last for a CFL game. Due to the spread of the coronavirus and the world-wide pandemic that we’ve been faced with, there was no 2020 CFL season but for two time CFL Eastern All-Star Jonathan Rose that was just one of two seasons that he’s missed, making the CFL’s 2021 comeback season even more exciting. In his CFL career, he has played the majority of his team’s games when he was with the Ottawa Redblacks, missing just 4 games in his first 3 seasons in the league although after suffering a neck injury in a July 5th game in 2019 vs the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at TD Place and the on-going COVID-19 pandemic Rose will have been sidelined for 25 months come August 7th when he plays again with the Elks. 25 months may seem like a long time, and it is but it is much better than not playing ever again like he was told to when he first suffered his injuries in 2019, “I was told a couple times that I probably shouldn’t (play again) but I didn’t let that get to my head. A lot of people do meditations or yoga to put themselves in a good place mentally, football is my yoga and I need it just as much as those people need their meditations and yoga.”
Having his mind set on playing football again, Jonathan Rose stayed around the game of football. Even though he couldn’t play for the team, he spent the remainder of the 2019 CFL season with the Ottawa Redblacks, installing a powerful energy into the locker room. When talking about the season he spent on the sidelines he said, “it wasn’t fun. It was my first major injury where I had to sit out a full season, but for me I felt like it was good to stay around my teammates and give the team the energy they needed during games.” For Rose and the Redblacks, it was a good situation for both sides, he was able to keep his mind set on football and in a 3-15 season the Ottawa Redblacks needed all of the energy they could get on the sidelines for the rest of the season. For the rest of the season as well, while being on the sidelines and being around the team Jonathan Rose was starting his rehabilitation, doing everything he had to to be able to play football again, starting off by having neck surgery in late January in 2020. “After I had surgery, I had a neck brace so I couldn’t do any workouts or anything, but as soon as it was off in March I was working consistently to be healthy enough to play again because that was the goal.”
In early March, Rose’s neck brace was taken off and he was then able to work on getting strong enough to play again, though unlike a usual injury rehab he was forced to do it on his own at home. During the exact time period in which he had his neck brace taken off, a world-wide pandemic had started and due to the coronavirus gyms were closed, hospitals and doctors offices were emergency only, team facilities were closed as well as the majority of stores and public areas. This affected his rehab, but at the same time helped his rehab. Along with the closures and cancellations, the CFL was forced to shut down their 2020 season which while still being stuck at home for his rehab gave Jonathan Rose more time to get himself ready to play football again and also life after football. “It was a blessing in disguise.” Rose said, “Having the CFL season cancelled in 2020 I didn’t have to worry whether I’d miss another season or not so it gave me more time to workout and get ready to play in 2021.” He then continued to talk about what he ended up doing throughout the lockdown, “I tried to stay as busy as possible during the time I had. In June when I was officially cleared to play football again I continued to do small workouts and build my strength up but I also explored opportunities for what I’ll do after football. Being hurt and being told that I might never play again gave me a reason to do stuff to prep for my life after football.”
As for his life after football, Jonathan Rose wants to explore his chances at becoming a guidance counselor and thanks to this quarantine he was able to learn more about the job and finish his degree at the University of Nebraska where he had his football scholarship when he played there. He said in an interview with Jordan Zlomislic of JZ Media, “I want to be a guidance counsellor of some sort later on when I’m done with my football career. It’s always been something I’ve been interested in, just to be able to help the younger generation and thanks to a few teachers in Ottawa, I was able to meet with a few classes and talk to them.” For the most part when you hear of professional athletes talking to a class or a group in general it would be about sports but for Rose it was different, he explained, “It was the first time I talked to a group and was focused on talking about life and not just sports. For me it was a great experience to be able to do that, and to be able to do something where I can see more of what I might do in a job in the future and I was also able to finish my degree which is going to help in the future too and I’m excited about that.” Of course finishing his degree and focusing on his life after football was something Rose had higher up on his priorities list, and just recently we were taught as football fans that the players aren’t the only ones working during the pandemic. In the CFL, since the league shut down in August and after the free agent list came out in November, teams have been actively working on building their rosters for the 2021 season and among the teams doing exactly that is the Edmonton Elks.
Edmonton, recently has been in the headlines for changing their name to the Elks, moving on from the previous name “Eskimos” but have also been in headlines for signing a number of key free agents, continuing to improve for the 2021 CFL season like how they’ve signed Jonathan Rose. The contract between the two is a huge headline for the CFL. Rose, a two time CFL Eastern All star, Redblacks’ 2016 rookie of the year and Grey Cup Champion is without a doubt one of the best cornerbacks in the CFL right now and there is no arguing that the Edmonton Football Team won big with this signing. “I’m very excited.” said Jonathan Rose, “Its been a longtime for everyone in the CFL since we played but adding that injury to it for me its been even longer and I speak for all of the CFL players when I say this, we’re going to be like kids in a candy store when we get on that field in August.”
With that being said, its clear that Jonathan Rose and his teammates will be excited for when CFL football returns and now with his new contract Rose has, “one less thing to worry about” he says. In June of 2020 when he was cleared to play football again he was officially released by the Ottawa Redblacks, making him a free agent and he hadn’t heard from the Redblacks’ front office to bring him back, giving him the go ahead to talk to new teams. Out of all of the teams in the CFL that he was talking to the Edmonton Football Team is the team he feels the most “comfortable” with, he said himself, “the team has a lot of familiar faces. Even though its a new team, new colors and a whole new city for me it isn’t all that different. They have Brock at GM who helped bring me in the CFL in the first place and then on the coaching staff they have Thorpe who coached me in 18’ and 19’, not even talking about the players you can call it the ‘Redblacks 2.0’ with Trevor (Harris), Greg (Ellingson), Sir V(intent Rogers) and everyone else there.”
In football, and in all professions it often comes down to who you know. For this case, with Jonathan Rose becoming a free agent and all of the familiarity he has in Edmonton it did come down to just that, but it also came down to the talent as well. Rose isn’t just some average player that the Edmonton Football Team wants to have around because they ‘know’ him, they brought him in to win. Rose, in 4 seasons in the CFL has played in 53 career games, tallying up 166 total tackles while forcing 15 turnovers, scoring two touchdowns as well as getting one quarterback sack. The numbers speak for themselves and show exactly what kind of player he is and he wants to make sure that people know that Jonathan Rose can still play in the CFL, even after not playing for over two years. He commented, “Edmonton has had a lot of success, and we can have some more success. I’m there to be the best player that I can be and to give them the best chance to get their 15th Grey Cup Championship.” Not only is he looking at winning but also creating opportunity, “The franchise has a good history of bringing guys to the NFL and as much as it may seem like a closed opportunity I still want to get a shot at it and being in Edmonton gives me the best chance to make that a possibility.”
To start off what we hope will be a good CFL season in 2021, Jonathan Rose is in Edmonton ready to play football after 25 months without it. For all CFL and football fans in general this should be something to be excited for. Watch out for Rose and the Edmonton Elks in the 2021 CFL return to play football season as he looks to bring the 15th Grey Cup back to his new home in Edmonton.
When the NFL kicked off its 2020 season on September 10th at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, between the two teams the Chiefs and Texans there were 94 players suited up and on the field. Around the NFL there were 1,504 players that suited up week one while 576 were inactive, in total there were 2,080 football players under contract by an NFL team. From the outside looking in that looks like a lot of players but that is just 2% of NCAA division one players and 0.09% of High School football players. Looking in at those numbers, there are so many athletes that deserve to be in the NFL but never have the opportunity to live out their dream and play an NFL game. There are too many athletes that fall through the cracks. For a lot of the players it may make sense why they do not have the NFL shot, however there are hundreds of football players that are worthy of it and continue to work towards the opportunity, whether that be in training or in other professional league like the CFL, The Spring League, and the XFL. One person that understands the work that needs to be put in to achieve the goal of suiting up on a Sunday in the NFL because of the work he’s done with a number of professional athletes would be Craig LeBlanc.
LeBlanc is a quarterback turned coach and trainer in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He has been recently working with well known wide receivers coach David Robinson of “Always Open” where he has coached quarterbacks and thrown with some of the top receivers in the game. Robinson has been known for training some of the NFL’s premier wide receivers such as Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Sterling Shepard, Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk and Dez Bryant. Since beginning his trainings with David Robinson and being around some of the best athletes in the NFL as well as some University, High School and Free Agent football players Craig LeBlanc has found a passion of his. “I love providing opportunities for guys that need it.” LeBlanc commented in an interview with JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic, “I’ve never wanted to be a face of something, its never about me. I am doing everything for the guys around me and I want to build something where my guys can achieve their dreams and get stuff done.”
One major thing that Craig LeBlanc has launched to provide opportunity and help to athletes around him succeed is the 2 Live Late Night Crew. The 2 Live Late Night Crew started earlier this year where a group, led by LeBlanc, free agent defensive back Victor Hubbard, quarterback Donovan Isom and NFL Pro Bowler Dez Bryant has linked up every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to train under the lights, improving to play on Sundays. When asked about the crew LeBlanc said, “It all just started so we can give guys the opportunity to go up against some competition and improve while they wait for their next opportunity. It ended up getting some attention early on and was a no brainer for myself to also use it as an opportunity to give some guys exposure and help guys achieve their dreams.” Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday when the 2 Live Late Night Crew hits the field the cameras are on and athletes perform and showcase what they can do. The platform has grown a lot because of the NFL players that have been out to sessions but it’s now at a point where players of all levels, from high school to the NFL are at sessions. “We’ve all seen what Dez (Bryant) can do on Sundays, his film speaks for itself but one thing that a lot of people don’t know and haven’t seen is the human being he is. He’s in there (at the training sessions) and pulling guys a side, it doesn’t matter if their a high school, college or pro guy and he’s working them through their craft and coaching them up.” LeBlanc mentioned, “Dez is always the first one that jumps in to talk to these guys too and it goes outside of football, he’s a real role model for some of these guys on and off of the field. There has been some kind of misconception of who he is as a person because he treats everyone with love, kindness and respect, really without him 2 Live Late Night Crew wouldn’t be the same. He brings the energy and love every time he is there and you can tell how beneficial it is for some guys to have him there not only running routes so they can see what he does but also for that coaching and role model aspect of it. He wants everyone to get better and elevate.”
Dez Bryant, Craig LeBlanc and David Robinson have a number of athletes training with them every week at all levels of football, from high school to pro and some of the athletes, more specifically the professional football players that are at the 2 Live Late Night Crew sessions every Monday, Wednesday and Friday with LeBlanc are worthy of an NFL opportunity that they don’t have just yet. Quarterback Donovan Isom has been throwing for Bryant for quite some time now and still stays a free agent, receivers Jordan Smallwood, Will Forbes and James Harden as well as defensive back Victor Hubbard are of many players that LeBlanc would love to see get an opportunity. For receiver James Harden, who has been found in front of several different NFL stadiums holding signs with his information on it saying “Sign Me” and has recently played in the Fan Controlled Football League, Craig LeBlanc said the day he signs with an NFL team will be “one of the happiest days of his life.” he explains, “He’s one of the hardest workers at all of the sessions he is at, he is a great receiver with the ability to make plays. Going to all of these stadiums he has shown that he has the work ethic, he just needs the opportunity and so do a lot of other guys at the sessions we put on.”
To continue to provide opportunities for athletes like Harden to improve their game and extend their exposure to achieve their dreams of one day playing an NFL game Craig LeBlanc has some big plans. “My main goal moving forward is to get my guys opportunities.” he said, “I am planning on doing a free agent combine and a college combine at some point in the near future for my guys and other guys in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to showcase themselves. There is a lot of great athletes in this area that deserve a chance so if I can help them get there that would be awesome.” One main thing with LeBlanc, and he mentioned it during the interview with Zlomislic is his selflessness. Many trainers and coaches out there are building their brands and platforms off of their clients success while Craig LeBlanc is building his clients and his athletes’ brands off of his small success he’s seen already and will continue to do so. He is all about providing opportunity for the guys he coaches and as an athlete that is the exact coach you want, a main reason why LeBlanc and his group at 2 Live Late Night Crew is bound to have long term success and already is having success with a number of athletes now being seen through the trainings like Jordan Smallwood who signed with the Ottawa Redblacks and Laquon Treadwell who is now a Jacksonville Jaguar. LeBlanc signed off the interview saying, “I’m excited to see the future of this and to see more of my guys succeed.”
In 2012 Atlanta, Georgia native Wallace Miles was signed by the Detroit Lions out of North Carolina A&T University. Miles grew up watching Barry Sanders and the Lions making this opportunity a dream come true but the opportunity didn’t just fall from the sky. He’s been in love with the game of football since he began watching Sanders as a kid but played soccer until he was allowed to be on the football field and signed up to play football for the Westlake High School Lions. At Westlake he played alongside NFL MVP quarterback Cam Newton and although he wanted to be a running back or wide receiver because of his background as a soccer player he was made a kicker for the Lions. Wallace Miles was a kicker at Westlake High School but still spent time practicing and training at the wide receiver position “to become the next Jerry Rice,” he said but, “I only played the very last game of my High School career at receiver. Someone went down at receiver and the coaches knew I was athletic and practiced at receiver so I filled in.”
After spending one game at receiver throughout his entire high school career Miles entered his recruiting process as a receiver but because of his experience as a kicker it was hard for coaches to see him as a wide receiver out of the gate. He was recruited and walked on as a kicker at North Carolina A&T in 2007 but he told himself when he became an Aggie that he wouldn’t be a kicker ever again and how he will be a receiver moving forward. As a receiver at North Carolina A&T he became the first player in school history to lead the school in receiving in each of the four years as an Aggie. This, and his time spent in the off-seasons training with CFL Hall of Fame receiver Milt Stegall earned himself that dream come true opportunity with the Detroit Lions but that was not the only opportunity that Miles was approached by in 2012.
While getting the opportunity to live out his dream as a professional football player with the Detroit Lions, walking the same halls that his idol Barry Sanders walked one day Wallace Miles began writing a book which just released this May. “My mom actually thought of the book.” Miles mentioned, “I had a true underdog story, having been a kicker and walking on at NC A&T then getting that professional opportunity it was clear that this story could inspire others. I started writing in 2012 and just recently finished making them, having them all available to buy. It took about 8 times to write and get the right story across but it is super exciting to have done.” He stated, “It’s really fulfilling because the 8 years that I spent writing the book and the different drafts I wrote for it I evolved and the evolution of Wallace Miles is in that book.”
That book, ‘Underr8ted’ that goes through the entire Wallace Miles story leading up to his professional career which came to Canada in the CFL with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Ottawa Redblacks, Edmonton Eskimos and Toronto Argonauts is a part of a series of projects that Miles has worked on and continues to work on with his motivation start up ‘Change Your Cleats’. Change Your Cleats goes all the way back to when Miles changed his own cleats from the ones he used as a kicker to those he used as a receiver and will continue to touch on subjects that he believes can inspire the next generation of athletes. He said, “My goal is to enrich those and inspire those who get their hands on the book or are able to come across my platform.” and continued, “If I can create real connections and relationships with people around the world from my story I wouldn’t only benefit others but I would benefit as well.”
“I grew up watching Luke Kuechly. I model my game after him and now I get to play for the same school he played for.” Canadian linebacker Edwin Wilson Tara-Kolenge said, “I still can’t believe it.” as he announces his commitment to the Boston College Eagles. Tara-Kolenge, a 6-foot-3, 217 pound linebacker made his commitment to Boston College public on Saturday but he says, “They’ve been a top school for a while.” Leading up to the announcement he and defensive co-ordinator Tem Lukabu built a good relationship. The two are Congolese and French speaking so they bonded over their similarities and their relationship as well as Kolenge’s with the other coaches on staff passed on to the rest of his family, “not only did he and coach (Jeff) Hafley text me but they also texted and spoke with my parents.” Tara-Kolenge commented, “With the thoughts I already had on the school that only helped me make the decision and I cannot wait to be an Eagle.”
The Montreal, Quebec native will not be the only Quebecer on Boston College’s football team though. He will join redshirt junior wide receiver Ezechiel Tieide who attended the same High School of Lachine, Quebec and played for the Dalbé-Viau Aigles D’Or. Ranked as a 4-star recruit Tara-Kolenge had many offers to choose from including those from Syracuse University, Indiana University, Virginia Tech, West Virginia University and Rutgers University who made it on his top 8 released in February.
With the opportunity now to suit up in the new uniforms that Boston College recently released Canadian linebacker Edwin Wilson Tara-Kolenge will be one step closer to achieving his goal of becoming an NFL player. He will be coached by defensive co-ordinator Tem Lukabu who served as the linebackers coach of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2019, head coach Jeff Hafley who has 7 years of NFL coaching experience on the defensive side of the ball within the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, and San Francisco 49ers, linebackers coach Sean Duggan has the same coaching experiences. The Eagles have also had 5 players drafted into the NFL in the last 3 NFL Drafts including one first round pick in Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman Chris Lindstrom and 2nd round pick A.J Dillon of the Green Bay Packers. “It’s a childhood dream come true.” Tara Kolenge told Jordan Zlomislic of JZ Media in an interview, “To be in a position like this where I am close to being a NFL player is awesome.”
Making his commitment to Boston College public not only silences other schools from recruiting him but lets him get back to the basics again. Edwin Tara-Kolenge said, “It’s great to be able to focus on myself, on getting better and focus on football again and not the recruiting process.” When talking about the recruiting process and his next opportunity to play football again across the border in the USA with Loomis Chaffee in Windsor, Connecticut he mentioned with a big smile on his face, “I am excited to be back on the field and showcase myself again. I will continue to develop and be the best football player I can be. When I am in Boston to play for Boston College I will be ready to make an impact.”
An impact sure will be made and with the recent history of Canadians going to the NFL Tara Kolenge has a very good chance of becoming a part of the list of Canadian first round NFL Draft picks if he stays on his path but thats isn’t what he’s thinking about just yet. He wants to be able to help Boston College win games as soon as he steps foot in Alumni Stadium. “It’s going to be amazing.” he said about the first time he gets to suit up as an Eagle, “I will be a hybrid linebacker, in and outside of the box. I will be able to play at edge as a pass rusher but also go into coverage as a linebacker. I really can’t wait to play there and eventually become an NFL player.”