After a long off-season, filled with acquisitions and headlines from the front office the Ottawa Redblacks hit the field for the first time on Friday night.
It may seem weird to say it, especially after the past two seasons, but they did indeed come away with the victory over the Toronto Argonauts.
From the quarterback room led by veteran Jeremiah Masoli, to the running game sparked by hometown hero Jackson Bennett, to the stacked receiving core, all the way through the defence filled with fan favourites and the special teams group looking for a DeVonte Dedmon replacement, Friday night was a great time for all Redblacks fans to take a look at what their favourite team may look like this upcoming season.
What was displayed on the field at TD Place on Friday night, well, was a lot of different things.
Starting with the new quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli; he looked great in the new colours and fit right into the mix at TD Place. He threw for 105 yards and connected with his former Tiger Cats teammate Jaelon Acklin for a 8 yard score. Although there were a couple of instances where he did have opportunities to take off and run, Masoli looked comfortable in the pocket, and previewed a great connection he’ll have with second year receiver Ryan Davis this season.
Davis caught all three of his targets for a total 45 yards and overall made it look easy, helping the rest of the receiving core catch on. Rookie receiver Siaosi Mariner caught one pass for 20 yards and should be a player to keep eyes on alongside other new CFL receivers Brandon Arcando, and Justin Hardy. Veteran CFL receivers R.J Harris, Jaelon Acklin, B.J Cunningham, and Shaq Johnson were also suited up for the pre-season action at TD Place. Among the group it was R.J Harris that stole the show later in the game with 4 catches for 61 yards and a touchdown which put the Redblacks in the game.
That R.J Harris touchdown was thrown by Tyrie Adams who came into the game following a 2nd and 3rd quarter of Caleb Evans’ playing time. Adams really showed a lot of great things in his CFL debut. Despite throwing a pick six, he was able to use his ability to run, and bounced back from the interception, throwing that touchdown to R.J Harris and running in for a score as well, which had been set up by a big 40 yard run from hometown hero Jackson Bennett who signed with Ottawa during the off-season.
On the other side of the football, the defence really looked solid. Mike Benevides is building off of any success he had in the capital last season, and is in for a big year with his defence. Defensive linemen Jhaustin Thomas, Tre Hornbuckle and Davon Coleman each made a sack, while Avery Williams and Trumaine Washington found themselves in the stat sheet with interceptions as well.
When the starters were in for the first half, R-Nation got a look at their favourite player; Sherrod Baltimore as he begins what could be his biggest season yet. He, alongside his partner in the secondary Abdul Kanneh at half back looked great. Baltimore locked down each receiver he lined up against and did his job, even forcing Toronto quarterback Antonio Pipkin to hold on to the ball in a couple of plays, forcing an offensive holding call on one, and reading a wide receiver screen which went for negative yards because of perfect execution on Baltimore’s end.
It was a great start to a big year for Baltimore, and hopefully R-Nation can say the same thing about a couple of good returns they saw from both Terry Williams and Byron Marshall as Bob Dyce and company search for DeVonte Dedmon’s replacement in the capital.
The Redblacks will play their second of two pre-season games on Thursday in Montreal and then will be heading off to Winnipeg for their season debut on June 10th to take on the defending Grey Cup Champions.
R-Nation’s favourite player is entering his fifth season in the CFL, and for Sherrod Baltimore, it is his biggest season yet. It’s a new year, and new beginnings for the Ottawa Redblacks in 2022. From the front office to the quarterback to the defensive secondary, a lot has changed in the nation’s capital, and changed for the good, for the better.
The team has changed, but the goals have not.
Sherrod Baltimore and the Redblacks have always had the Grey Cup on their mind.
They have always worked extremely hard to get to their team and personal goals. In 2018 they got there. They reached a lot of their goals. The Ottawa Redblacks as a team made it to the Grey Cup, they were the eastern champions, and to put him aside, Baltimore also had 4 interceptions including one in the Grey Cup game.
Since then, the Redblacks have struggled. The team hasn’t looked the same. Not even close to the same, until now.
They look even better than they did in 2018, and Sherrod Baltimore specifically is in for a big year. He isn’t in the headlines like other defensive backs in the CFL, he hasn’t necessarily been the flashiest player on the field, but all of that will change very soon.
With 47 regular season games under his belt, and countless hours of work put in over the past 6 years in the CFL, Sherrod Baltimore, alongside defensive stars Trumaine Washington, Money Hunter, Patrick Levels, Randall Evans, Avery Williams, Abdul Kanneh, Cleyon Laing, and many more play makers in Ottawa is set to make a splash in the secondary. In that 2018 season when he had his most success, coming off of a rookie of the year campaign in 2017, he was surrounded by playmakers. This year, there are even more playmakers around him, and he himself has improved heavily.
All of that will be on display for the first time on Friday night at TD Place as Sherrod Baltimore and the Ottawa Redblacks kickoff their 2022 CFL pre-season against the Toronto Argonauts, if everything goes well with the CFLPA/CFL CBA negotiations on Thursday of course.
When asked at training camp about the start of the 2022 CFL season Baltimore told JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic, “I feel good.” And, “I’m excited, we look good. It’s been a good camp so far. So far, so good. I’m taking it one day at a time.”
About the changes on the team, Baltimore explained, “I like so much stuff, thats an understatement. We have the majority of our defence back, still got our good defensive coordinator (Mike Benevides), special teams, coach Dyce is back, and now we have a quarterback, nice offensive linemen, a lot of new receivers, coach LaPo is back too so there’s so much to talk about, we’re going to keep on coming together as a team, it’s looking good.”
Be tuned into the Ottawa Redblacks and Sherrod Baltimore this 2022 CFL season, and don’t be surprised when number 27 in red and black takes over the league.
Last season, having gone 3-11, the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks didn’t have a lot of positives, especially on the offensive side of the ball. With quarterback Matt Nichols only throwing for 544 yards and not scoring a single touchdown, and no 1,000 yard receiver or runner in sight, it was tough for Redblacks fans to figure out who their favourite players were. Fortunately, there were still some flashy players on the team to choose from. DeVonte Dedmon and Brandin Dandridge had their success which brought them to the NFL, so they would have caught the eyes of some fans, but so would have wide receiver Ryan Davis who broke out in his first year in the CFL.
Going into the very first game of the season against the Edmonton Elks in 2021, very few people knew who Ryan Davis was. Players on the Redblacks offence that stuck out on paper included Timothy Flanders, R.J Harris, Daniel Petermann and Anthony Coombs. It seemed as if they would be the leaders on the offence, but after getting the ball 8 times in Edmonton to open up the season, the Auburn Tigers record holder, Ryan Davis became a big part of the offence. Davis finished the season with 55 receptions for 589 yards and two scores, winning the Ottawa Redblacks rookie of the year award, and setting himself up for a bright future, a future which all begins with 2022 Redblacks training camp.
When asked about training camp, a few days into it, Davis told JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic that, “Its been fun!” and, “Its exciting to get out on the field with a different group of guys, some from last year too and just to play ball again. Its a start of a new year, improving from last year, definitely exciting. Theres lots of energy thats been flowing around, we just have to get back to playing ball.”
Davis is in for a big year. After having success in year one with the Ottawa Redblacks, and showing glimpses of what is possible, that 1,000 yard marker is definitely something that the league should keep eyes on when it comes to Ryan Davis, and as a collective effort, the Grey Cup is within reach for the Redblacks as a whole, especially with their energy right now. “We are definitely hungry,” Ryan Davis said, “You feel the energy. It just feels like everyone wants to improve off last year, we know it wasn’t our best performance, thats not us. As a whole, we want to change that, as the Redblacks.”
Sure the energy helps, and after bringing in new talent to help last year’s team succeed in 2022, it has gotten much better, but a lot has also been learnt, and developed over the off-season.
Like he did in University, Ryan Davis used this past off-season to better himself, and prepare for what could very well be a breakout season in 2022. At Auburn, among the years which he broke the record for most receptions in Tigers history, Davis had a big jump in production from his sophomore season to his junior season; going from 25 catches for 194 yards and a score to 84 catches for 815 yards and 5 touchdowns. That jump in production is something that can be possible once again after his first season in the CFL because of the differences between year one and year two for Davis.
“What are the differences?”, you may ask…
“The fact that I got the experience last year and be able to go into the off-season knowing what to expect. Last year I didn’t know what to expect. The rules, the waggle and everything. Its one thing to hear about it and then doing it. Over time I got better and better, and going into the off-season I watched film to see what can make me a better player, and working on those things during the off-season, bringing it to training camp, I am bringing all of it to fruition.”
If everything goes as planned with the CFL, and the CFLPA’s negotiations regarding the CBA, Davis and the Ottawa Redblacks will have their first pre-season game on Friday in Ottawa against the Toronto Argonauts. It will be the start of a new year, and what looks to be a good year, not only for Ryan Davis, but the Ottawa Redblacks as a whole.
After three tough years for the Ottawa Redblacks and their fan base, quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and his teammates are focused on flipping the script in the nation’s capital. Over the past three years, going 3-15, missing out on a full season and going 3-11, the entire CFL has lost any hope they had in the Ottawa Redblacks. From 2015 through 2018 they were the talk of the CFL, going to the playoffs each and every year, and making their way to the Grey Cup in 3 of the seasons, but once things started to go downhill, the only hope was coming from inside the organization and close by. The front office, coaching staff, and players have stayed strong, and have worked extremely hard over the last 3 years to get back what they had in Ottawa before. Unfortunately the goals were never reached, however with some major changes in the locker room and the front office, 2022 has become the year that the script around the CFL is flipped for the Ottawa Redblacks and it all begins now.
The off-season was a work of beauty for Ottawa Redblacks fans to watch come together. Seeing the roster that Shawn Burke was able to build, it was a work of art, really. Starting off with veteran CFL quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and continuing with star power around him like Jaelon Acklin, Darvin Adams, William Powell, Patrick Levels, Kwaku Boateng, Money Hunter and more, the team has been pieced together almost perfectly. The roster, full of talent, is also full of great storylines heading into the 2022 CFL season.
Of course the biggest story is how the team will be able to flip the script. Although it will be much deeper than just that.
Some key stories that are important to keep eyes on for the 2022 CFL season in Ottawa, all starting now in training camp include: a face of the franchise with Jeremiah Masoli, the coming home story of William Powell, the breakout season for Ryan Davis, Shawn Burke’s trip to the body shop with the offensive line (repairs), the prove me year for Sherrod Baltimore, a defensive player of the year campaign for Avery Williams, finding the DeVonte Dedmon replacement and a bounce back year for Lewis Ward.
Without a doubt there will be more stories to follow but those mentioned are clearly some of the more major ones heading into the season, but why is that?
Well beginning with Jeremiah Masoli, this will be the first time since Trevor Harris that the Ottawa Redblacks will have a proven starting quarterback. Someone with experience, winning experience, and someone with tremendous leadership. For years he has been a star in Hamilton, and now it is time that that star shines bright in the nation’s capital. He comes into Ottawa with the goal to win the Grey Cup, and is doing so alongside a great group of teammates that have the potential to do so, but the wins on the field are just as important as what Masoli can do off of the field as well as the franchise quarterback in Ottawa. When Henry Burris was the starting quarterback of the Ottawa Redblacks from 2014 through 2016, you didn’t even have to know anything about football to know who he was. His smile, and his impact on the city as a whole was huge, and really, was well known across all of Ottawa. It was a prime example of what a franchise quarterback, and a face of a franchise should be like in Ottawa. With a great reputation from Hamilton, and already some appearances at community events, Jeremiah Masoli’s potential past just the game of football in Ottawa is exactly what the Redblacks need in 2022. In a post-covid season, and a big “flip the script” season, Masoli will be the main character that everyone loves in the Ottawa Redblacks 2022 season.
Another character from the 2022 season that will get a lot of love will be running back William Powell, who has returned to the nation’s capital. Powell was already a star running back in Ottawa once, from 2015 through 2018, and he will be once again in 2022. After two seasons spent in Saskatchewan, rushing for over 1800 yards in 31 games, he comes back home, where he spends his off-seasons, to Ottawa on a mission to win a Grey Cup. He’s won one Grey Cup already in his career, back in 2016 with the Redblacks but wasn’t able to play in the game to say he earned it 100%, and having lost two Grey Cups in 2015, and 2018, this season will be a big one for Powell, at 34 years old on a mission to win a ring.
One player that is hungry to win a Grey Cup as well, and one that has been on a number of successful teams in the past would be Tampa, Florida native Ryan Davis. Davis had a large role with the Redblacks in 2021 as a rookie he caught 55 passes for 589 yards and two scores, winning himself the Redblacks’ rookie of the year award, and opening the eyes of many around the league. One set of eyes that he did open by his performances in 2021 was those of Jeremiah Masoli, and Masoli, with players like Darvin Adams, Jaelon Acklin, RJ Harris, Nate Behar, Tevaun Smith, BJ Cunningham and Shaq Johnson around as well, will love to have Ryan Davis around as a weapon for the Redblacks offence. At just 25 years old, the Auburn Tigers record holder could still very well make his way into the NFL, and his chances only go up with a breakout season in 2022.
A breakout season from an offensive player would only be possible with a great offensive line. And fortunately for Davis and the other weapons on the roster, Ottawa’s offensive line looks solid heading into the 2022 CFL season. After a horrible season in 2021 up front, Shawn Burke repaired the offensive line, bringing in what is almost an entirely new offensive line. Names like Darius Ciraco, Ucambre Williams, Jacob Ruby, Hunter Steward, and Zack Pelehos are all looked at to be major additions from this off-season and are easily looked at as improvements on paper, the only question though is how they will hold up on the field.
One player that everyone in Ottawa already knows about and have all been reminded of him recently with his own community event earlier this month is Sherrod Baltimore, the Redblacks’ fan favourite defensive back. Baltimore is heading into his 5th season with the Ottawa Redblacks, and he is aging like fine wine in the Redblacks’ secondary, as the league is yet to see his best. In 2017 as a rookie he shocked the league in limited playing time, winning the team’s rookie of the year award, in 2018 he intercepted 4 passes including one in the Grey Cup, and since then he has found himself struggling alongside the rest of the team, unfortunately he also caught the injury bug along the way in the 2021 CFL season, but this 2022 CFL season has all of the attributes to be a special year for Baltimore. In 2018 he has plenty of success, and a lot of it had to do with who was around him. Both Jonathan Rose and Rico Murray were next to him in the secondary. That season Rose and Murray were tied for the league for interceptions. Baltimore shines bright like a star when others around him are shining. This year, with Abdul Kanneh, Randall Evans, Patrick Levels, Money Hunter, Antoine Pruneau, Justin Howell and Trumaine Washington playing alongside Baltimore in the secondary, you can expect big things from him. He has already made his name known in the city, and he has already set up his takeover on the city, but now it is time for the execution. The execution for him will be on the football field, and opposing quarterbacks are in danger.
With Baltimore on defence, to go with the long list of stars already named is Avery Williams. Williams has been a star linebacker for the Ottawa Redblacks since he got to the team in 2018. With over 200 tackles in 41 games played, his resume speaks for itself, but it only started to get the league’s attention last season when he was getting nominations for the defensive player of the year award from the Redblacks. This season, it is time for him to win the award.
The only award winner for the Ottawa Redblacks last year was found on the special teams unit in DeVonte Dedmon, winning the most outstanding special teams player of the year award for the 2021 CFL season. Dedmon without question was the best player on the field at all times for the Redblacks in 2021, and with him off to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, one of the biggest questions surrounding the Redblacks still, despite their success this off-season would be; who is the replacement for DeVonte Dedmon?
To answer that question easily, and truthfully, the answer is nobody. You simply cannot replace DeVonte Dedmon. Everything that he was able to do with the Redblacks, in the small amount of time he did it in, you may never see it again in the CFL, so the appropriate question instead would be, “who will return kicks for Ottawa in 2022?” The answer is unknown at the moment, however with successful experience doing so your top two candidates would include Terry Williams and Byron Marshall. They may not have the same impact that Dedmon did on the special teams unit, but they can definitely give it a go.
The special teams unit in Ottawa, coached by Bob Dyce can arguably be the best around football. It has built up one of the best reputations across all of professional football over recent years, and a big reason comes with the pro football records. From Diontae Spencer’s 496 all-purpose yards, to Dedmon’s 5 touchdowns in 15 games all the way to Lewis Ward’s streak of 69 consecutive made field goals in regular season play, the Ottawa Redblacks’ special teams unit truly puts the word “special” in its name. But will it be special in 2022? It indeed will be special if history repeats itself with Lewis Ward preparing for a bounce back season, where he can get back to where he was in 2018 in the middle of his famous field goal streak. It is definitely something to keep an eye on for the 2022 season, among many other things.
Ottawa Redblacks training camp has already kicked off, and with the season coming up extremely fast, be sure to keep a close eye on the Ottawa Redblacks for the 2022 CFL season as they look to flip the script.
On Sunday May 8th, Ottawa REDBLACKS fan favourite defensive back opened up the doors of TD Place to the city of Ottawa for his first ever Sherrod Baltimore Family and Friends Day. It was a free football camp for kids 6 to 18 years old, and it was an all around great day for anybody that wanted to hang out with Baltimore, and some other CFL players. From the great day that Mother Nature was able to provide, to the amazing day that Baltimore laid out with the help of his partners, everything about the event on Sunday was a success. When asked about the day, and if it was everything he had expected of it, he told JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic, “it was amazing.” explaining, “it went way better than expected. Saying it was everything I expected it to be would be an understatement. It went above and beyond what I thought it would be like. It’s a blessing to have been able to do an event like that. I am grateful for everyone that helped out and made it possible, and everyone that gave me the opportunity to do it.”
After playing with the Redblacks since 2017, and being cheered on by many around the city, this event that Baltimore put on could be looked at by many as an opportunity for him to give back to the city. Many could see it as his way to say thank you to the fans that have supported him for the past 5 years, and to welcome them back to TD Place for the upcoming season, but really what it was for Baltimore was putting everything he has been doing in the city on the big stage.
Since he got to Ottawa back in 2017, Sherrod Baltimore has always been heavily involved in the community in the city of Ottawa. Whether it was through community events put on by the Redblacks or being incorporated into other events and circles around the city, Baltimore has always been a big name in the city of Ottawa and has consistently been making his presence felt in a positive way. He has built real, and meaningful relationships with a number of individuals across the city, while also serving as a role model for many young athletes as well. Sunday, being able to have an event at TD Place where over 200 kids could gather, play football and have fun, the Sherrod Baltimore Family and Friends day was just putting his work on a bigger stage. Baltimore explained, “I’ve been doing things like this. I’ve been giving back to the city, this was just the first time it was put on a bigger platform for more people to see. I remember when I was in my second season (in Ottawa, 2018) I used to get a uber to St. Matts to go to Coach Jean’s games and trainings. We gave cleats to kids, and I’ve always been in the community, not everyone knew about it all, but after going on a big platform, we’re only going to do more. The future is going to be full of events, and community days for everyone, I’m already thinking of what’s next.”
With more community events like the one on Sunday, the future looks extremely bright in Ottawa.
For those that weren’t able to attend Sherrod Baltimore’s family and friends day, be sure to be on the lookout for the next event, because you will not want to miss it.
There has been a lot of talk as of recently regarding the growth in talent for football in Canada. With multiple Canadians getting drafted into the NFL each and every year it is clear that football has gotten bigger in Canada, and the football has gotten better, but when we talk about football, for the most part we just talk about young men. Something that should be getting more attention, and be talked more about are all of the talented young women that play football as well in Canada.
Shanya Murape is a perfect example, and should be looked at more for what she is accomplishing coming out of Toronto.
Murape is a flag football quarterback that has recently announced her commitment to Kansas Wesleyan University in the states where she is going to play football and attend post secondary school on a partial scholarship. This has been done before by a few Canadian girls before, but Murape’s story, being a quarterback, and the way she got to Kansas Wesleyan is going to pave way for more girls in the future.
She was first introduced to the game of football in the seventh grade, and showcased her natural athleticism on the field, excelling with her club team, the Toronto Generals. The success she was having, along with the fun playing football early on helped her fall in love with the game. When the COVID-19 Pandemic hit in 2020, her passion for the game really kicked in and opened her eyes to a future with football. “When COVID hit, I was thinking a lot about the sports I was playing,” she told JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic, “I didn’t want to quit football and focus on something else, and I didn’t necessarily want to do something else while I play football, so when I saw the NFL post about the NAIA and the women’s flag football that schools were offering, it felt like the perfect thing for me.”
Without knowing much about NAIA Womens Flag Football, Murape began reaching out to schools that offered a flag football team, and coaches across the NAIA. She was sending out all of the film she gathered from before the pandemic playing a number of different positions, and ended up talking to a number of people, getting a lot of interest across the NAIA. Murape really took the recruiting process for flag football the same way she’s seen young men go about it to go division one in football, and showed exactly how it’s done for the next group of girls from Canada that want to go and play flag football at the next level. Talking about the process, she mentioned, “I had a lot of interest. It was nice to talk to coaches, and get the opportunity to commit finally with Kansas Wesleyan.”
She goes to Kansas Wesleyan as a quarterback with the ability to play anywhere on the field, a strong athlete, and Murape has high hopes for herself as she goes to the next level. “I want to show-out for Canada.” she said, “There aren’t a lot of Canadian girls that are across the border in the states playing football, so I want to be able to show everyone that we can play good football, and also be someone that young girls can look up to. When I’m there, and everything I want to tell my story for more girls to know about it.”
Her story will without a doubt be told, and she will have the opportunity to do as much as humanly possible to spread the word about girls flag football in Canada as well as the opportunities that can come with it. In the states it is becoming more popular, and with the NFL helping them out the interest is getting larger every year, and more opportunities open up as more schools begin to offer a team. Unfortunately the same growth is not happening yet in Canada however with the right people, and with time, Shanya Murape believes Canada will have a good presence for flag football. “It’s very slow paced, but there is some growth.” she acknowledged, “its disappointing that the CFL hasn’t taken the same role that the NFL has in the states, but with more girls getting opportunities like me, and with what I want to do too, I think it can be bigger for sure.”
While at Kansas Wesleyan, Shanya intends on taking Exercise Science, and hopes to one day work in football, and in sports once she is finished playing football, so not only does the world have to keep eyes on Shanya Murape the football player but also the young woman off of the field as well. With a good head on her shoulders, and a plan, she is set to be doing big things.
Over the recent years, there has been a clear growth of talent in the city of Ottawa when it comes to the game of football.
With Ottawa’s Very Own, Jesse Luketa getting drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2022 NFL Draft and Luiji Vilain signing with the Minnesota Vikings, joining Neville Gallimore, and Eli Ankou in the NFL, the city can be seen at the highest level, and will only continue to be seen there moving forward as well.
A few players from Ottawa to keep eyes on over the next couple of years to go to the NFL would include University of Miami’s Akheem Mesidor, Rutgers’ Wesley Bailey and Rene Konga, Penn State’s Jonathan Sutherland and Christian Veilleux, Robert Morris’ Shakespeare Louis and many more. Among the players that you can say are next up is also high school athlete Justin Rowe.
Rowe has been playing football on the west side of Ottawa, in Nepean with NCAFA’s Nepean Eagles over the recent years so his name hasn’t really come up in the conversation too often with the vast majority of talent coming from the east in the Orleans area, but Rowe has always excelled in football. Having started in grade seven playing running back, he was able to outperform a lot of the competition, eventually being moved to quarterback where in youth football in Ottawa he had the opportunity to use his athleticism more, and really show-out for himself in Ottawa.
Last season he led his Nepean Eagles team to a NCAFA championship and played against the Essex Ravens in the OFFL Championship.
The success he had last year, and the film he was able to provide for himself over the coarse of the 2021 season, he goes back to thank his coaches for. Just before the COVID-19 Pandemic he was able to meet Iseah Montgiraud and Coach Jean Guillaume, who both have had a major part in his growth as a football player but also a young man. Iseah Montgiraud, with Limitless Era has trained Rowe, while Guillaume, as a well known high school football coach and recruiting advisor in Ottawa has helped him understand the game of football more, and open the doors for him in football. In an interview with JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic Rowe said, “Meeting coach Jean opened my eyes, and my family’s eyes as well to the future that is possible with football. I’m grateful for everything he has done for myself, and also all of the other players too. A lot of the university guys that played for him before have helped me during trainings and stuff too which has made a difference, and Iseah at Limitless has really gotten me better, and is preparing me for the next level.”
For Rowe, the next level, and the next step he is taking to one day be in the same conversation as the stars in the city like Jesse Luketa, Luiji Vilain, Eli Ankou and Neville Gallimore, is at Asheville School in Asheville, North Carolina.
As a class of 2025 athlete, Rowe really is in a perfect situation. To be able to be where he is right now athletically, training and being coached with some of the best in the city of Ottawa, and to have the opportunity now to cross the border with 3 seasons of football ahead of him at Asheville School is great, and it will not only set himself up to be great on the field but off of it as well.
Rowe is extremely excited to be able to be on campus at Asheville and get to work. “It’s a great feeling.” he said, “It is easy for people to get comfortable in this kind of situation. When you’ve worked this hard already and you’ve gotten some success, but this is time to work harder for me. I’m going to be around better football players, and there will be better football all around so I’m going to have to adapt to that. It’s time to lock in.”
This next step is a step that has already been taken by many from Ottawa. With the number of players from the nation’s capital entering the NFL growing each year, it has become more popular to have paths like Rowe’s shown at that level. The majority of players from Canada that have made their way into the NFL have taken a similar path, where they go to high school in the USA to get exposure, coaching and competition to go to the next level, and eventually the NFL. It is a big gamble, leaving your home country for something that is not guaranteed, but for Justin Rowe, it’s a risk he’s willing to take. No matter what, he believes the plan from the man above is going to set himself up for a beautiful future.
A bible verse that he goes by, Jeremiah 29:11 says everything you need to hear regarding the path he is taking to be successful on and off of the field. It reads, For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD . “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
With interest off of the field in technology, and most specifically cyber security, and hobbies like video editing, and graphic designing, Rowe is also focused off of the field, and has a good head on his shoulders for the future he has not only in the field but off of it as well. Rowe will be spending the summer training, and preparing for the opportunity he has in front of him at Asheville. Keep all eyes on him as he takes this next steps to one day play in the NFL.
On Tuesday night, Jean-Paul Cimankinda was drafted into the CFL by the Edmonton Elks, and with that draft pick, in the 7th round, Cimankinda not only joined his brother in the CFL who got drafted by the Saskatchewan Roughriders last year but a number of athletes from Ottawa as well. Jean-Paul grew up playing football in a football family in Ottawa, and has a true Ottawa story, having had success at all levels from NCAFA through U-Sports, even playing at the University of Ottawa with the Gee Gees in 2021.
With the Gee Gees in 2021, Cimankinda made a name for himself as one of the country’s top running backs. Of course the OUA had Western’s Keon Edwards, and Trey Humes as well as Queen’s Rasheed Tucker who each showcased their talents extremely well over the 2021 season and did so with their versatility, but what J.P was able to do at University of Ottawa as a power back really separated himself from the competition in Canada. In just 6 regular season games with the Gee Gees, Cimankinda, on 76 carries ran for 426 yards, averaging 5.6 yards per carry on the season and 99.5 yards per game with over 10 offensive touches. In addition to his regular season totals, in the two post season games, J.P Cimankinda, who could be the best power back in Canada ran for 221 yards and a score on 44 carries while also catching one pass for two yards over the two games. He averaged 5 yards per carry, and helped lead the University of Ottawa to their first playoff victory since the 2014 season.
Getting drafted by the Elks, he enters a running back room filled with talent, which includes long time CFL back James Wilder Jr. With this opportunity in front of him to join Wilder Jr and play in the CFL, Cimankinda shows a lot of excitement and is ready to prove himself at the next level. “I’m really excited.” he told JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic, “I have been working to get to this point for a long time, and it has been a great process. Recently I’ve been training with Iseah (Montgiraud) at Limitless Era where I have gotten a lot of speed training. He is a track coach so he knows a lot about speed and techniques. He has helped me get faster, and really change the way I run which was amazing, and then I also do the strength workouts with Joey (Kwasniewski) with Titan. It’s been a great preparation. I’ve been working out like 5 or 6 days of the week, with school and some work shifts on top of that it has been crazy recently for sure. Happy that I have done all of this though, I feel ready to take the next step.”
That next step for Cimankinda will be next week in Edmonton as he begins his mini camp with the Elks and even though he may say he is excited, excited is definitely an understatement to say the least. “It’ll be amazing to be there.” he said.
On Saturday, April 30th, Ottawa’s Very Own: Jesse Luketa became the fourth football player from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada to get drafted by an NFL team. Selected with the 256th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals, Luketa was joined by other Ottawa football players who were signed following the draft to NFL teams. The Penn State star was the only one from Ottawa that was drafted but Luiji Vilain, Patrice Rene and Deionte Knight also got calls from NFL teams.
Just after the draft wrapped up Vilain received a call from the Minnesota Vikings, and like Jesse Luketa with the Cardinals they got a steal, and a diamond in the rough with that contract. Vilain, like Luketa has the potential to be a big name pass rusher in the NFL coming off of a 10 sack season with Wake Forest a year ago. To go with Luiji Vilain’s call from the Vikings, both Patrice Rene and Deionte Knight, who both grew up in Ottawa received calls from NFL teams as well for mini camp invites.
Rene is headed off to the New York Giants for their mini camp following a collegiate career split between the University of North Carolina and Rutgers, while Deionte Knight has been invited to both the Washington Commanders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers mini camps. Knight’s journey was a different one than Luketa, Vilain and Rene though. He is receiving this NFL opportunity from a Canadian University at Western while the others are coming out of power 5 NCAA schools. He had 52 tackles and 10 sacks in 11 games, winning the Vanier Cup with the Western Mustangs last season.
These four players, each with different, and equally inspiring journeys taken are both testaments to the fact that the city of Ottawa truly is a football city. You can say what you want about it. Talk as much as you’d like about the hockey in Canada, but with 6 players from Ottawa now being seen on the NFL stage, and a lot more on deck, it is clear that Ottawa’s football takeover is at the best it’s ever been with so much more to come.
This Tuesday, May 3rd will be the 2022 CFL Draft where even more players from the capital will get professional football opportunities. Players like Katley Joseph, Khadeem Pierre, and J.P Cimankinda are expected to get drafted into the CFL on Tuesday, shining a light on even more talent coming out of the capital.
Since he was young, as a young boy growing up in Ottawa, Jesse Luketa always had dreams of playing in the NFL. He played football with the South Ottawa Mustangs, and Cumberland Panthers in club football as well as the St. Patrick’s Irish in High School while in Ottawa before he followed in the footsteps of now Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Neville Gallimore to cross the border for high school.
Gallimore went to Canada Prep where he had the opportunity to play against a number of American high schools and showcase his talents in front of scouts at the next level. As a friend of his growing up Luketa saw what Gallimore did and wanted to do the same to be able to further his football career. He did so with Mercyhurst Preparatory School in Erie, Pennsylvania and made a name for himself early on there. Luketa was named a four star recruit out of Mercyhurst and had over 30 offers to play football at the division one level.
Among those offers were big name programs like Auburn, LSU, Georgia, Florida, Baylor, Indiana, Boston College, and of course Penn State where he ended up playing four seasons, and ultimately starring as a Nittany Lion.
With Penn State, Luketa had quite the career. He played alongside a number of NFL players including defensive stars Micah Parsons, Jayson Oweh, Arnold Ebiketie, and Jaquan Baker. Even with that talent around him, he still managed to stick out as well. With 151 tackles over his four years as a Nittany Lion, one sack, 6 pass deflections and a pick six he solidified his position and role on the defence as a play maker. Luketa’s numbers over his career were great. They are much better than average, but they don’t really stick out as much as some of the players you see drafted in the first round, but some can argue that his film is much better than those drafted before him.
His film demonstrates a lot of different things. If you watch it all in order, coming out of high school Luketa was a linebacker for Penn State. He was impressing everyone at linebacker, and then as time went by, and come his junior year when Micah Parsons left Penn State his role enlarged. He was not only playing linebacker but he was also seen on the defensive line at edge rusher as well. As a senior, he starred at defensive end, and was making play after play at that position. Not only stopping the run, making tackles for loss but also being efficient in the pass game, getting after the quarterback and getting a pick six off of the line. Overall, Luketa’s film is impressive. For that he got a lot of attention and in a result had the invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama and the NFL Combine in Indianapolis where his name only got bigger.
At the Senior Bowl he had success all week. He put his name on the map, if it wasn’t already. People were talking about him on a daily and he became the talk of every practice in Mobile, and capping off the week with two sacks in the game, it was a beautiful week for the Ottawa-raised football player. It really put concrete into the fact that he will be an NFL player.
And he now will be an NFL player with the Arizona Cardinals after being drafted with the 256th pick in the 7th round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
With the Cardinals he will be an immediate help, and is bound to make an impact not only with this new team but his hometown of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Not only will they be getting immediate help to add to their young defence with similar style player Isaiah Simmons on the roster, but Luketa is easily going to be THE steal of the NFL Draft. Not only because he is a stud on the field but because of the kind of person he is off of the field as well.
At the Senior Bowl when Zlomislic met with Luketa he talked about him and his friend Neville Gallimore and how they manifested these opportunities that they are getting. Luketa said, “It’s just going back to us sitting in a room before we even had the opportunity to even be in the situation we’re in playing in the senior bowl. We spoke it into existence,” he continued, “I’m a firm believer of manifestation. We spoke about us being in this exact situation and for me to be here, although it may be surreal sometimes, it’s expected and I’m extremely grateful to be in this position I’m in right now and I’m really looking forward to seeing what Ottawa has to produce moving forward because the talent is there, it’s more so just having that scope transferred over to all of the kids that have the dream to do the same thing we have.”