Group of Canadians headline 2023 NFL Draft; “it’s a blessing. It’s been a journey.”

From April 27th through April 29th, there will be 259 names called at the 2023 NFL Draft in Kansas City, Missouri. Lives will forever be changed for many young men, NFL teams will improve, and there is a record ready to be broken. That record being the amount of Canadians drafted in a single NFL Draft. The record right now sits at 4 Canadians, and has been done twice, in 2014 and 2021.

The Canadians you may see get drafted this year, breaking that record would include running back Chase Brown, receiver Jared Wayne, offensive lineman Matthew Bergeron and Sidy Sow, defensive linemen Lwal Uguak and Tavius Robinson as well as defensive backs Sydney Brown and Jonathan Sutherland.

Of the 8 players, 5 took part in the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, and four of them played in the highly scouted Reese’s Senior Bowl. Those that played in the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, Chase and Sydney Brown, Tavius Robinson and Matthew Bergeron, spoke with JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic about the draft process as well as their individual journeys to the NFL.

The Brown twins, from London, Ontario, Canada are coming off of great careers at Illinois where running back Chase Brown ran for 3,206 yards and 18 touchdowns with the Fighting Illini and defensive back Sydney Brown made 319 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 26 pass breakups, 10 interceptions, 2 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and one fumble recovery over their time together in Illinois. Whether they were on offence or defence, Illinois could count on one of the Brown brothers to make a play, and that is set to continue on the professional stage.

They played on the same team at the Reese’s Senior Bowl where Chase Brown was named a practice player of the week, and they both put on good performances. Talking about being there together, Chase Brown told Zlomislic, “it’s a blessing. It’s been a journey. You think back at high school, or even earlier when I was watching guys go through this process, it is pretty surreal to be here together, competing at such a high level.” That journey that Chase is referring to was a long one, and it is where they came from that has kept them grounded throughout this NFL Draft process. Sydney Brown talked about his and Chase’s background, “we grew up in Canada for our first 16 years. Had a great family and support system, raised by a single mother who had us young at 18, had my grandma as my rock and my uncle and grandfather as our father figures going up, so it was good. We didn’t have much, but we were fortunate to have what we had. When we were 16, our mom had some issues after having our little sister which led to illnesses where she was unable to work. The situation left us homeless at one point, where we spent time in the shelter and with some decisions to make for our futures, whether we’d stay in Canada and work a trade, or cross the border and chase our dreams in football.”

The rest is history for the Brown brothers’ stories. They completed high school in Florida, and then dominated the college football landscape, on their ways to having successful NFL careers.

Also on their way to having a successful career in the NFL, and ready to hear his name called in late April is defensive end Tavius Robinson.

Tavius Robinson took a unique route to get to where he is today, preparing for his call from an NFL team. He actually kicked off his university career at home with the University of Guelph. The 6-foot-6 edge rusher put up great numbers with the Gryphons, having made 13.5 sacks in his two seasons with the school prior to getting a lot of buzz from schools down south, including the University of Mississippi where, in three seasons, has had plenty of success. In 34 games with the Rebels, Robinson made 90 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, forced 5 fumbles and recovered 2 fumbles. As a senior, he had two in-conference games with two sacks made, one against Auburn, and the other against Mississippi State, really putting him on the radar of many teams in the NFL.

While that route to the NFL, having gone to university in two countries, and having to prove himself on every level he’s been on, may sound difficult, and a long route, it has ultimately made Robinson who he is today. “It’s been a real blessing to be on this journey.” Robinson told JZ Media, “having the opportunity to transfer from Guelph was great. I had a good time there, and it prepared me pretty well for division one football. I’m hoping to continue to help pave the way for more Canadians to go a similar route.”

A fairly similar route was actually taken by Matthew Bergeron who also took part in the Reese’s Senior Bowl and NFL Combine like Robinson. The difference between Bergeron and Robinson’s routes, was Bergeron went through CEGEP instead of University.

Coming from Quebec, Victoriaville to be exact, once Matthew Bergeron graduated high school, he went on to CEGEP at CEGEP de Thetford, which for those that don’t know, is like a mix between the Junior college and prep school level of football south of the border. Bergeron played to the best of his ability in CEGEP, not only getting him named the 2nd best recruit from Canada in his class, but he was also ranked across the border by 247, Rivals and ESPN, leading him to an excellent career with the Syracuse Orangemen. With the Orangemen, he started in 39 games and just completed an outstanding senior season, capping it off with great performances at the Senior Bowl and Combine.

His success recently, whether it be throughout his senior year with Syracuse or the stages of his pre-draft process, has been because of the constant effort he is giving.

“I have been giving everything I do 100%. I know how important everything I am doing is right now.” Bergeron said in his interview with JZ Media, “I know how much I’ve done, and how much it took to get to this point, so I can’t take my foot off the gas now. I’m not done yet.”

Bergeron is not done yet, and neither are all of the Canadians around him.

With the NFL Draft now approaching, be on the lookout for the group of Canadians set to take their next steps of their football careers.

“It’s bigger than sport.” Alonzo Addae hosts first annual Daily Deposits Youth Camp

Alonzo Addae is fresh off of a solid rookie season with the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks where he played in each of the Redblacks’ 18 regular season games, making just shy of 30 tackles on the year, well on his way to having a great professional career, but his journey wasn’t that easy to get to this stage of his life. From Pickering, Ontario, Canada, Addae, as a football player had to work extra hard to get to where he wanted to be, and continues to work hard.

He kicked off his football career at St. Mary Catholic Secondary School in Pickering, continued it with the Pickering Dolphins in the OVFL, and crossed the Canada-USA border to play with Peddie School in New Jersey where he got the coaching and exposure to play in the NCAA. In the NCAA, he began playing at the University of New Hampshire, then transferred to play power five football with West Virginia University where he was coached by his cousin Jahmile Addae who played in the NFL. With West Virginia, Alonzo Addae became a name that everyone in the BIG 12 would be familiar with. Over just 23 games played as a Mountaineer, he made 139 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 10 pass deflections, 1 sack and forced 4 turnovers (2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery). He had the opportunity to try out in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals prior to reporting to Ottawa Redblacks training camp.

Just taking a look at the career Addae has had thus far, with stops at around 7 football teams from St. Mary to the Redblacks, there is a lot of knowledge, on and off of the football field that he has to share, and he wants to do exactly that for the next generation of athletes.

During 2020 he launched a company called “Daily Deposits”, which, in his case as an athlete, goes into detail of all of the work he puts in on a daily basis to be the football player you see on the field on game day, but goes much beyond just football and sports. He has goals of helping mentor kids of all different talents, giving them the leadership and resources they need to be successful. One of his first ways of doing that was hosting a first annual Daily Deposits Youth Football Camp on March 13th.

Addae held the camp close to home, in Oshawa, Ontario, where upwards of 30 young football players had the ability to spend the day with Addae and get hands on mentorship from himself and other coaches. The event was a great success and was the first of many.

When talking about his company Daily Deposits to the kids at the camp, Addae gave the message, “Daily Deposits is all about investing in yourselves. You guys are at a very young age right now, you can do anything you want to in this life. Regardless of sport, I’m not even just talking about sport right now, I’m talking about what ever you want to be, what ever you are passionate about, whatever your heart desires, you can go get it but it is going to take work and consistent work. If you put in the work daily it will lead to bigger and better things.”

Introducing “The Grind” a JZ Media series with Ottawa Redblacks’ DeVonte Dedmon

Since DeVonte Dedmon came to Ottawa in 2019, he has always been making his presence felt on the football field. Playing in 22 games over the span of 3 CFL seasons, he’s gained an all-purpose 3,674 and scored 6 total touchdowns. His success on the field has put his name in the record books, won him awards, and most importantly gave him a platform.

This off-season, leading into the 2023 CFL season Dedmon wants to take full advantage of that platform he has built for himself, starting a series with JZ Media and Psychletes called “The Grind”. “The Grind to me is for me to use my platform, not really to raise awareness but more to show what athletes do outside of their sports.” he told Jordan Zlomislic, “I want this not only to be about me, but I want to give my teammates and people around me a voice off of the field and show that we are more than athletes. I hate the ‘shut up and dribble’ stuff, so I want to give people a look into the locker room, where we talk about more than sports. We talk about financial literacy, mental health, starting businesses, and all of these different aspects of life that aren’t really talked about in sports, so this is kind of that escape that we need as athletes in the media.”

Episode zero of Dedmon’s series, “The Grind” is out now through JZ Media and Psychletes, where he talks on his background from Williamsburg, Virginia, his journey to Ottawa and his current off-season grind in Ottawa.

Hard Work Pays Off; The Brandin Dandridge Story

Over the last few seasons, Ottawa Redblacks defensive back Brandin Dandridge has been taking the CFL by storm. In just a limited 18 games played since the 2019 season where he got his first opportunity with the Redblacks, Dandridge has made a total 38 tackles, 4 interceptions and has forced two fumbles. In the 2021 season he really made a name for himself when at one point he had four straight games with a takeaway. 

Making play after play for the Redblacks defense, the name he has made for himself has been becoming a big name in the CFL. The name Brandin Dandridge is now known across the league, and as he continues to play into his prime years of his career, the name is only getting more popular. When fans across the CFL hear his name though, not many know what it took Dandridge to get to where he is with his football career, as well as his life.

Regarding his story, in an interview with JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic last off-season he explained, “A lot of young athletes need to hear about my story, and I want to tell more kids about the path I took, and to help them with their own paths.” 

Dandridge’s story, and path began in Des Moines, Iowa where many would have thought the name Brandin Dandridge would have found its way into the MLB into the future. Dandridge spoke on his early baseball days, “there were people around the fences watching my tee ball games because I was the only kid there that could hit over the fence home runs.”With the ability to hit over the fence in tee ball, Brandin continued to play baseball right up to high school when he ended up moving close to Kansas City. He attended Blue Springs South High School where, despite playing football earlier in his childhood, his football career really took off in Blue Springs. 

He began to have a lot of success on the football field, and ended up focusing on a future in football, quitting baseball in high school with plans to play football at the collegiate level. Getting that opportunity to play college football, Dandridge attended the University at Missouri Western, and you would think that playing at that level his eyes were on the NFL the entire time but it wasn’t really until his senior year at Missouri Western that he had realized the possibility of that NFL dream coming true. He finished his college career strong making 74 tackles, 35 pass deflections, and 8 interceptions in his final two seasons. NFL scouts were coming to the University to see him at practices and games, and things became very real for Dandridge’s chances at the league, but unfortunately dealing with an injury to close out his senior season those NFL possibilities were really up in the air. “I had a lot of interest going into the season from NFL teams” He said, “If I had another good year, I knew I would have high chances of making an NFL roster. I was coming off of an injury on my right knee in the spring, so the preparation for my senior season was going to be crucial to give me the best opportunity possible heading into the draft process. Unfortunately I suffered an injury to my left knee during the season which set back the draft process and it pretty much eliminated my chances to go to the NFL that off-season.”

The injuries that Dandridge suffered during his senior season did not stop him from working towards his dream of playing in the NFL. After 6 months of recovery, when he was healthy enough to get back on the football field, Dandridge took part in the XFL’s first showcase in 2019. “I was nervous, I hadn’t really done any football activities since the surgery. I ran a 4.5 40 yard dash. After that I was looking for a job, and was actually in an orientation at UPS when my agent called me about Ottawa.”

When Brandin Dandridge had the opportunity to come to Canada and play with the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks, he didn’t know where Ottawa was. In fact, he didn’t even know Ottawa was a city. “I said, ‘what is Ottawa?’ as soon as I got the news. I heard of the CFL, and knew some teams in it and stuff but I didn’t know the Redblacks so it was all so new to me and I was actually off to Ottawa the next day.”

Since he arrived to Ottawa, as mentioned earlier, he has had quite the success on the field with the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks. He’s had a great stat line over the last three seasons, and the plays he has made got his foot in the door in the NFL, gaining the experience of an NFL training camp with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2022, but Dandridge has also reached some milestones and goals off of the field as well. Brandin and his girlfriend Jaelyn had a son together during the off-season leading up to the 2021 CFL season.”becoming a father was amazing.” he said, “growing up I looked up to my dad in many ways. Having a son, I want him to be able to look up to me the same way I looked up to my dad. I hope he can look at me and be like ‘wow, that’s my dad.’ At the end of the day I want to leave a legacy for him, and give him something that he can build on to. I love being a dad, and really I cannot describe the feeling I have being around him.”

Recently, having an opportunity with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs as well as becoming a father, Dandridge has grown a focus on his personal brand, and telling his story. 

He has a platform as a professional athlete with the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks which he’d like to grow and use to his advantage during his football career and beyond it. As he looks to grow his brand and create opportunities for himself off of the football field, stay tuned for some content regarding Brandin Dandridge, his story and his future on and off of the football field.

“I love seeing it all together” CFL wide receiver Darvin Adams on customizing shoes during the off-season

From May through November, Darvin Adams was seen on the football field as a wide receiver for the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks. He made a lot of big time plays for the Redblacks, finishing the season with a total 949 yards and two scores on just 63 catches. Now, during the off-season, he is being looked at as a creative, and hard working entrepreneur.

If you follow Adams at all on social media, you may have been seeing a lot of shoes on his instagram page recently, and a lot of cool shoes. Those shoes are all customized by Adams, and have started a business out of nothing for him to work on during this off-season.

He told JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic that it all started off with him wanting a customized pair himself. “I hit up one guy to have a pair made, and he said it was like $400 or something to have it done,” Adams said, “I ended up making my own, and began making a few more.”

He’s now customized close to 20 shoes this off-season, and has made it not only just a hobby, but is making it a business as well. Anyone can reach out to Adams to get shoes customized, all you have to do if you are interested is message him on instagram at @AdamsDarvin4x. When he was asked about designing and using his creative mind to customize the shoes, Adams told Zlomislic his favourite part of it all is watching it all come together. “My favourite part is taking the shoe a part, and seeing it come together. It’s cool to see it all happen when you work on the shoe and see the final product.”

If you haven’t already, be sure to look at some of the shoes Adams has already customized on his instagram page, and message him to get your own customized pair as well.

Bob Dyce and Redblacks finalize 2023 coaching staff, make good progress in the off-season

On Wednesday the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks announced their 2023 coaching staff. It was the first big announcement made by new head coach Bob Dyce, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Dyce is already onto a good start in his new role, having now brought in both Khari Jones (offensive) and Barron Miles (defensive) as coordinators. Other names also brought into the mix include; Travis Moore as a receivers coach, Nate Taylor as a running back coach, offensive line coach Paul Charbonneau, Cory McDiarmid as a special teams coach, defensive line coach and run game coordinator Mike Phair, linebackers coach Patrick Bourgon and defensive backs coach Alex Suber.

A few noticeable changes from the 2022 staff would be the departures of quarterbacks coach Will Arndt and defensive coordinator Mike Benevides, as well the move from receivers coach to defensive backs coach for Alex Suber.

When unveiling the staff Dyce stated, “This is a group that is committed to working together with players both in the meeting rooms and on the field to ensure success. They have won everywhere they have been and we’re fortunate to have them all in Ottawa.” This is just one of the many things the Redblacks have done thus far to be a better team in 2023. They’ve already re-signed a lot of the core pieces to the team, some of the biggest names would be Dino Boyd, Nate Behar, Richie Leone, Lewis Ward, Justin Howell and most recently Kene Onyeka.

With less than two months remaining until free agency opens, be on the lookout for more big news coming from the capital as Bob Dyce and company look to create a championship culture in Ottawa.

Sherrod Baltimore’s 2022 Ottawa Redblacks highlight reel

Over the 2022 CFL season, Ottawa Redblacks defensive back, number 27 Sherrod Baltimore made a positive impact in every way possible, on and off of the field.

Baltimore has been known to be a big part of the community in Ottawa since he arrived in 2017. From what he’s done with the Ottawa Redblacks and OSEG to the involvement on his own, his smile has become known across the city, but so has a lot of the plays he’s made.

In 2018 he had 4 interceptions, two of which coming in the playoffs, one in the Grey Cup, and just this past season, despite not getting an interception, Baltimore may have had the best season yet. To see what he did in 2022 with the Ottawa Redblacks click on the YouTube link below to watch his JZ Media highlight reel.

Less than two months until CFLFA, what has to be done in Ottawa before the market opens

Last off-season, during CFL Free Agency, the Ottawa Redblacks were very active and a lot changed in the nation’s capital. From the front office itself, with the general manager hiring of Shawn Burke, all the way down to the signings of big time players like Jeremiah Masoli, Jaelon Acklin and Lorenzo Mauldin, the Redblacks very clearly got better during the off-season last year. With Free Agency opening up once again in less than two months on February 14th, there’s a lot of questions surrounding the Redblacks and how they will approach the market after they were so aggressive last year.

One difference between this year’s off-season compared to last year will come from the coaching perspective. On December 2nd the team announced that they hired special teams coordinator Bob Dyce as their next head coach. Since then, Burke and the rest of the front office have focused well on bringing back the special teams unit from the 2022 season. They’ve already re-signed both Richie Leone and Lewis Ward, everybody’s favourite kicking duo in the CFL, as well as Ty Cranston, Marco Dubois, Jackson Bennett, Nigel Romick and Justin Howell, who, all Canadians, can play special teams. To continue to re-sign the special teams unit, some players that are still un-signed that have proven themselves on the special teams unit in Ottawa, and in their respective positions would be both DeVonte Dedmon and Shaheed Salmon. Dedmon should be a no-brainer for the Redblacks to bring back, and to prioritize. He was unbelievable in 2021 when he won the CFL’s special teams player of the year award, and broke a record for the fastest player to reach 5 kick return touchdowns in just 15 games. After getting him back from the NFL where he spent time with the Miami Dolphins, the Redblacks should never let him walk to another CFL team. With receivers Ryan Davis, Darvin Adams, Tevaun Smith, Shaquille Johnson, RJ Harris and Nate Behar all hitting the open market if not re-signed, Dedmon can also play a large role on the Redblacks offence for new offensive coordinator Khari Jones.

Like Dedmon, Shaheed Salmon has been a big playmaker for Bob Dyce’s special teams unit since he came to Ottawa in 2019, but in 2022 he also proved himself as a linebacker. In 2019 and 2021 he mainly played special teams, making 12 special teams stops and forcing two fumbles in just 17 games, but in 2022 he made 23 defensive tackles, 15 special teams tackles and forced three turnovers, including an interception from his linebacker position. While he has played lights out on special teams, with a new regime on defensive with coordinator Barron Miles coming in, the Redblacks should bring back Salmon to play a large role on defence as well.

Speaking of defence… there are some big decisions to be made by Shawn Burke and the front office when it comes to what looked to be the Redblacks best unit in 2022.

The biggest name of them all would be Lorenzo Mauldin. He was the defensive player of the year in 2022, and the Redblacks most outstanding player. There is no doubt that he will be searching a big contract following a 17 sack season, and the major question that Redblacks fans want to know would be, “will that contract come from Ottawa?” But unfortunately there is no telling what the answer would be. The Redblacks have 31 other free agents that they will have to make decisions with, and while Mauldin may be coming off of a big season, and fans don’t want to see him walk, there are other options that the Redblacks do have. As pass rushers the Redblacks’ free agent list also has the names of Kwaku Boateng, and Praise Martin-Oguike on it, along with interior linemen Cleyon Laing and Davon Coleman. In 2022 Kwaku Boateng did not play, but was one of the big free agency acquisitions that the Redblacks made in attempts to improve the defence. Praise Martin-Oguike had 3 sacks and a forced fumble in just 9 games played this season in limited action, giving him a total 7 sacks in 18 games with the Redblacks over two seasons. Mauldin of course will be plan A for the Redblacks when it comes to their pass rushers, but with others hitting the market, and the salary cap in mind, a plan B may be in mind as well in the capital.

Staying on the defensive side of the ball, star linebacker Avery Williams is also a pending free agent, alongside the entire secondary. Sherrod Baltimore, Brandin Dandridge, Money Hunter, Abdul Kanneh, Antoine Pruneau and Damon Webb are all set to hit the market on February 14th. Of course, there are still some defensive backs on the roster. Some younger guys like Alonzo Addae, Hakeem Bailey, Douglas Coleman and Darius Williams may find themselves in larger roles come 2023, and with Justin Howell and Ty Cranston also brought back, they may see the defensive playing field more, but with big names on the Redblacks list of free agents, there are some decisions to make. Baltimore is a fan favourite around the city, and really came on for the 2022 CFL season, making several pass breakups, and making plays when the defence needed them. Going into the 2023 season, with a new coaching staff, bringing back Baltimore would do the team a lot of good to keep familiarity, and a proven player in the secondary. Two other players that would bring that would be Dandridge and Hunter. Money Hunter comes off of a 4 interception season where he didn’t even play the entirety of the season but found himself tied for third with the league lead of interceptions. With a bit of time spent with Barron Miles in Montreal it would make sense to see Hunter back in Ottawa for 2023, and it would also make sense to see Brandin Dandridge back as well.

Dandridge’s case is very similar to DeVonte Dedmon’s. He was very close to making it onto the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs roster during the NFL pre-season, and ended up coming back to Ottawa. Unless they are losing him to an NFL team, with the big play potential he has on the defensive side of the ball, the Redblacks would look silly if they let Dandridge walk and make plays against them in 2023.

As mentioned, Abdul Kanneh, Antoine Pruneau and Damon Webb are also among the Redblacks free agents. All three made large impacts for the Redblacks in 2022, and can all be seen brought back, especially Kanneh and Pruneau given their familiarity and veteran presence while still being able to play at a high level, but right now with the long list of free agents, its unsure where they would play in Miles’ system with all of the uncertainty around other positions as well.

While the defence will be figured out, and pieced together to fit Barron Miles’ system, the offence will have to be pieced together now for Khari Jones’ system as well.

Jones was the head coach and play caller of the Montreal Alouettes over three seasons. He saw a lot of success with Vernon Adams in his system, and with Jeremiah Masoli in Ottawa, with a similar playing style as Adams, Jones’ offence may work very well in the nation’s capital, but it needs to be complete. Going into Free Agency, the Redblacks’ offence has Jeremiah Masoli, Tyrie Adams and Dustin Crum under contract at quarterback, running backs Devonte Williams and Jackson Bennett (re-signed) under contract, receivers Jaelon Acklin, Siaosi Mariner, Justin Hardy, Quan Bray, Marco Dubois (re-signed), Keaton Bruggeling, Savon Carver and Tyrice Richie under contract and offensive linemen Dino Boyd (re-signed), Jacob Ruby, Zack Pelehos, Uzoma Osuji, Cyrille Hogan-Saindon and Justice Powers all locked up for 2023, so there is a good start at least to the off-season, but with a lot of pieces still left for the puzzle there will clearly be some work to do in the front office. Among all of the free agents ready to hit the market from Ottawa, some that the Redblacks should make efforts to bring back would definitely include offensive linemen Hunter Steward and Darius Ciraco, and receivers Darvin Adams, Ryan Davis, and at least two of the three Canadian playmakers, Nate Behar, Shaq Johnson and Tevaun Smith.

With 31 free agents ready to hit the market still from Ottawa, it is clear there is a lot of work to do in the front office to flip the organization from 4-14 to a successful 2023 campaign. It won’t all be done via re-signing players, but as Free Agency opens on February 14th, expect the Redblacks to go after talent across the CFL to get better.