JZ’s Scouting Reports; Lliam Horrocks, using his technique and fundamentals to better his game

In the game of football versatility is key. If you have the ability to play multiple positions or if you have a history of playing different positions you have an advantage over several athletes and among the players that have that advantage is Ottawa’s Lliam Horrocks. You can now find him on the defensive line at defensive end, though Horrocks also has history at outside linebacker which helps him get the upper hand on some other defensive linemen in Ottawa, making him a part of JZ’s Scouting Reports best defensive linemen list. 

Lliam Horrocks has been playing football since he was a kid growing up in Ottawa with the Orleans Bengals in NCAFA, a league that has introduced the game of football to a number of division one and CIS athletes. With the Bengals, like the most part of his teammates, Horrocks was able to get his first exposure to the game of football. He had the chance to play football for the first time, was able to learn the fundamentals and most importantly he found a love for the game of football. Not only did he learn a lot and find a love for the game, but he was able to put it all together and have some success on the field. In just one of his first years playing, in 2014 Lliam won the Orleans Bengals Defensive Player Of The Year, really finding out how to be disruptive on the defensive side of the ball. After playing a few years of NCAFA football, Horrocks took his football career a little more serious. The linebacker (at the time) started to workout more with trainers in Ottawa, attend camps outside of Ottawa and also put himself against some of the better talent he can get in front of.

For him, the best talent he could get in front of was at the high school level in Ottawa. Horrocks played with Franco Cité High School in Ottawa from grade 7 through 9, playing against and with some of the better players in the city of Ottawa, though his big opportunity came following his 9th grade season at Franco Cité when he was approached by Saint James High School in Hagerstown, Maryland. The High School in Maryland, Lliam Horrocks and his family each made a decision which would better a future, and just the following year Horrocks was playing football south of the border. Playing at Saint James, of course it helps in recruiting and it shows that Horrocks played against some known talent in his High School career but also gave Lliam Horrocks a great experience. He had the chance to get coached by a number of great coaches who have brought numerous players to the division one level, Horrocks was able to match his talent up against the talent he played against in the USA, but most importantly he had a great learning experience, being on the same roster of a few players, most specifically a few canadians that went the same route he aims to go, playing division one football. He said himself, “My 9th grade year at Saint James I was lucky enough to play with John Metchie, who later committed to Alabama. I learned a lot from a lot of good role models at Saint James.” A lot of people now know who John Metchie is because of the time he spent across the border, playing high school ball at Saint James and that is something that Lliam Horrocks noticed himself, that he could be exposed more in the states. Noticing just that, Horrocks stayed in Maryland, playing a whole 3 seasons across the border with Saint James school, two of the 3 seasons he was able to play a good amount of snaps, really fitting in on the defensive side of the ball but right as he was getting into his groove at St James, the Covid-19 Pandemic began. 

For him, the best talent he could get in front of was at the high school level in Ottawa. Horrocks played with Franco Cité High School in Ottawa from grade 7 through 9, playing against and with some of the better players in the city of Ottawa, though his big opportunity came following his 9th grade season at Franco Cité when he was approached by Saint James High School in Hagerstown, Maryland. The High School in Maryland, Lliam Horrocks and his family each made a decision which would better a future, and just the following year Horrocks was playing football south of the border. Playing at Saint James, of course it helps in recruiting and it shows that Horrocks played against some known talent in his High School career but also gave Lliam Horrocks a great experience. He had the chance to get coached by a number of great coaches who have brought numerous players to the division one level, Horrocks was able to match his talent up against the talent he played against in the USA, but most importantly he had a great learning experience, being on the same roster of a few players, most specifically a few canadians that went the same route he aims to go, playing division one football. He said himself, “My 9th grade year at Saint James I was lucky enough to play with John Metchie, who later committed to Alabama. I learned a lot from a lot of good role models at Saint James.” A lot of people now know who John Metchie is because of the time he spent across the border, playing high school ball at Saint James and that is something that Lliam Horrocks noticed himself, that he could be exposed more in the states. Noticing just that, Horrocks stayed in Maryland, playing a whole 3 seasons across the border with Saint James school, two of the 3 seasons he was able to play a good amount of snaps, really fitting in on the defensive side of the ball but right as he was getting into his groove at St James, the Covid-19 Pandemic began. 

Going into what would have been his senior season and his fourth season at Saint James, Horrocks was set to have a big role on the defense. The three previous seasons he was growing as a player, and he was really in for a big 2020 season with the team he knew so much, though unfortunately due to the Pandemic and the Covid-19 spread Saint James was forced to cancel their 2020 season, taking Lliam Horrocks’ senior season out of the window, at least at Saint James that is. Eventhough Saint James wasn’t going to have a season, Horrocks made sure he’d be able to get one last shot at his dream, getting a division one offer. Lliam ended up transferring to Cocoa High School in Cocoa, Florida and had the chance to play on an 10 win Tigers team, who also were named among the top 20 schools in the state of Florida. Being on a team so talented and having future division one athletes around Horrocks on the defense, it was tough for Horrocks to fit in at linebacker, though the coaches and him found an alternative. Being a little bigger than the average linebacker, standing at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds  Horrocks was later found as an edge, playing his first ever snaps on the defensive line. 

It may have been tough for him to adapt right away but he was able to find a way he can showcase his skill in a way other defensive linemen have trouble with. He used his speed. At linebacker he wasn’t always the fastest player, he used his techniques to make up for it, though on the defensive line he demonstrates a lot of quickness. Ottawa Redblacks defensive lineman Michael Wakefield even said while watching film on Horrocks, “He can get to the quarterback fast if he needs to. You can tell he is one step ahead of other ends and his ability to read plays is good too.” When asked about playing different positions and how that may help on the defensive line Wakefield also says, “If you played linebacker which (Lliam) did you should have a better understanding of runs and passes and even you would know coverage better than the typical defensive lineman as well. It helps a lot if you can move fast enough which he (Horrocks) can so he can use it to his advantage.”

It may have been tough for him to adapt right away but he was able to find a way he can showcase his skill in a way other defensive linemen have trouble with. He used his speed. At linebacker he wasn’t always the fastest player, he used his techniques to make up for it, though on the defensive line he demonstrates a lot of quickness. Ottawa Redblacks defensive lineman Michael Wakefield even said while watching film on Horrocks, “He can get to the quarterback fast if he needs to. You can tell he is one step ahead of other ends and his ability to read plays is good too.” When asked about playing different positions and how that may help on the defensive line Wakefield also says, “If you played linebacker which (Lliam) did you should have a better understanding of runs and passes and even you would know coverage better than the typical defensive lineman as well. It helps a lot if you can move fast enough which he (Horrocks) can so he can use it to his advantage.”

Using his history at linebacker to his advantage is exactly what Horrocks has been doing over the course of his career and now at the stage which he is at in his career he is looking to showcase exactly what he can do on a big stage, preferably the division one level. Horrocks said when talking about what he does differently than others, “I would say what sets me aside is my will and perseverance. Even though I’m not the strongest or fastest guy on the field I still find ways to make plays, get to the ball, and get to the QB.” he also said, “I model a part of my game after TJ Watt, I am not the strongest or the fastest but I get stuff done.” Getting stuff done at the next level is what Horrocks hopes to do, and everyone should stay tuned for exactly that as he  moves forward with his football career. 

JZ’s Scouting Reports; Nate Martey, “I try to model my game after the best”

In the city of Ottawa there are a lot of great football players. From tyke all the way to the NFL, from quarterback to kicker, there’s a lot of talent around the city and more recently than ever we have seen a lot at the defensive line position. There has now been 3 defensive linemen from Ottawa to go to the NFL in the past decade with Christo Bilukidi, Eli Ankou and Neville Gallimore, creating a lot of opportunity and making dreams seem reachable for the younger generations. Among the younger generation and an athlete that we may see in the NFL with Gallimore come a few years is Nate Martey. 

Martey is proven to be one of the best defensive linemen in the city of Ottawa, standing at 6-foot-1, 285 pounds he is a very athletic nose guard on the rise and needs all eyes on him moving forward with his football career. That career, which started in 9th grade at St. Peters High School in Orleans, Ontario will be making a stop at Princeton University in New Jersey, USA this year, on the way to the NFL. Although that journey may seem super easy to make, for Martey has worked for every opportunity that has and will come his way. 

After starting to play football at St. Peters in Grade 9, Nate Martey found a love for the game of football and although he wasn’t the best player he knew he had to improve and he did just that. “I wasn’t good. I started playing linebacker and being as big as I was it wasn’t the best position for me to play but when I started to get more into football and I did more to get better in another position it became fun to play.” Beginning to play more football and the main reason for the change of position to the defensive line came from well known Ottawa coach and trainer at Gridiron Academy Victor Tedondo who says, “He told me that he was a linebacker and right away I told him that he was a defensive lineman. Nate is a very athletic kid but he’s too big at linebacker and given his athleticism it makes him a good defensive lineman.” Although the interaction between both Victor and Nate regarding position was the first football interaction, they actually knew each other ahead of this and Tedondo tried to get Martey to play football for the Orleans Bengals way before he started playing at St Peters. When he mentioned the story Victor Tedondo said, “Nate was actually one of my neighbors when he was a kid. He helped deliver the paper and every few times I saw him I remember asking him if he’d play football for the team I was coaching in NCAFA. He always said he was a basketball kid but he did end up playing later on and it all went well for him.”

Martey started training with Tedondo at Gridiron Academy in high school after his second full season playing competitively with the Cumberland Panthers and saw a lot of growth early on, “His progression has been amazing.” said Victor Tedondo, “He has grown as much mentally as he has physically and he has become a great athlete. I saw it when he was playing in Ottawa and seeing him train, it was just great to see.” From training with Gridiron Academy and playing more with the Cumberland Panthers in NCAFA and OPFL, Nate has continued to grow and get better. He said himself, “I didn’t play the first year that I was in OPFL with the Panthers but when I started training I made plays all over the field and it made me think more about the future I could have in football.” Martey continued, “At first I wasn’t thinking about going anywhere for football, I didn’t even think it was possible but training with Vic and when I got better I realized that those division one and football dreams were possible and I was getting closer to them.”

Getting closer to the dream of playing division one football and continuing to get better as a football player, Martey was given the opportunity to play football with and against some of the best players, not only in Canada but in the USA as well. In 2018 he started playing at the Royal Imperial Collegiate of Canada also known as “Canada Prep” which is also the same school that Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Neville Gallimore had gone to before attending Oklahoma University. Going to Canada Prep only helped Martey for the future, getting him better as a football player and adjusting to the lifestyle as a division one athlete and he was even able to showcase what he is about as a football player. In that 2018 season, playing a full American schedule he was able to make 30 tackles, 18 tackles for loss as well as 4 sacks. Although he didn’t have any offers at the time he was just starting to have his name break the surface and after just four football seasons in Canada he had his mind set on the future. “I remember my very first offer. We went to the Grand Valley State camp, it was June 2nd in 2019 just before I was going to go to Loomis (Chaffee School, Windsor Connecticut) and a coach from Central Michigan pulled me aside and offered me.” said Nate Martey, “The first offer is something I’ll always remember because of the way it opened my eyes for more opportunities.” The next opportunity for Martey was something he didn’t have to wait too long for. He was given the opportunity to play a full season across the border with an American school in Connecticut, Loomis Chaffee High School and this is something you see a lot of football players from Canada, more specifically from Ottawa do. Playing football in the USA gives you more exposure to scouts at the next level, something that Victor Tedondo of Gridiron Academy is very familiar with, “We’ve had a lot of guys go (south of the border) and have success so it was good to get him that opportunity and see his progression continue.” said Tedondo who has coached several athletes to the next level, including Dallas Cowboys’ Eli Ankou. 

Of course the change to playing in the states could be tough to adapt to, though Martey didn’t have too many difficulties himself. In eight games across the border Nate Martey made a name for himself with 63 tackles to his name along with 40 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, and 3 fumbles (2 forced, 1 recovered), putting his all into every snap he played and showing all of the University scouts exactly who he is. After the season and over the span of the long off-season due to the Coronavirus Pandemic Martey has received multiple offers from division one schools, giving him a total 20 division one offers. 

Although you can look at his journey from the outside looking in and think it was easy, there are many reasons why Nate Martey deserves the opportunities that he has and will be getting in the future. Martey has been taught nothing but hard work and he’s done everything he can to be a bigger, stronger, faster and better football player, even trying to model his game after some of the best defensive linemen out there, “I look at a lot of guys of my size that are quick.” said Martey, “Watching the NFL there are a lot of great players out there and I tend to watch the most of guys like Geno Atkins, Ed Oliver, Aaron Donald and then I also have been one to watch the guys that I know. Guys that I’ve played with or even for some of them that have coached me too.” 

“At Gridiron Academy it is really a family. Once you’ve trained with me you become a part of the Alumni group and it’s really awesome because when these guys that have gone division one and they come back here they come to the gym and help the younger guys.” Victor Tedondo added, “Eli Ankou and Christo Bilukidi are two defensive linemen that have helped out some guys here and it’s always good to see because you can tell that the kids are getting better.”

Nate Martey’s support group, with all of the coaches he has is something that has helped himself and several others in the city of Ottawa and when talking about having help like Martey has had at a young age, Ottawa Redblacks defensive tackle Michael Wakefield had mentioned, “Its something I wish I had more of when I was growing up and playing football. Mentorship is key in football and its awesome that he was able to have that growing up in Ottawa, it has helped him out a lot.” he also continued and said, “As a big player, he has fast and great footwork, he uses his hands which is great and overall he can plug the run gaps and pass rush which is exactly what you want out of an interior defensive lineman. If he continues to get stronger I’m sure he will have success at the next level.”

Nate Martey’s support group, with all of the coaches he has is something that has helped himself and several others in the city of Ottawa and when talking about having help like Martey has had at a young age, Ottawa Redblacks defensive tackle Michael Wakefield had mentioned, “Its something I wish I had more of when I was growing up and playing football. Mentorship is key in football and its awesome that he was able to have that growing up in Ottawa, it has helped him out a lot.” he also continued and said, “As a big player, he has fast and great footwork, he uses his hands which is great and overall he can plug the run gaps and pass rush which is exactly what you want out of an interior defensive lineman. If he continues to get stronger I’m sure he will have success at the next level.”

Playing at the next level, Nate Martey has committed to Princeton University, being one of just a few athletes from Ottawa getting the chance to go to an Ivy League school for free, “The whole free schooling is a blessing,” said Martey “Not only will I be able to showcase my skills on the field and help out the football team but I’m going to be getting the best education I possibly can. I’m excited to have this opportunity.”

Ottawa wide receiver Shane Johnson commits to the University of Windsor

Over recent years, the city of Ottawa has seen a number of players in the game of football have success. It has been great to see from a fan’s perspective, a player’s perspective and a coach’s perspective as well to see this. There have been players having success on and off of the field, in the NCAA, the NFL, the CFL and also in the classroom and in the office in the city of Ottawa and most recently we have seen the media come together and realize just that. Now we have this growing platform for younger athletes to get better and expose themselves as world class athletes and world class human beings. That in a whole has been something that Ottawa resident and wide receiver on the football field, Shane Johnson has been able to do growing up and he is now moving on to be successful in football. “When I started playing football I fell in love with it,” said Shane Johnson, “It was a sport that I could really be myself and here in Ottawa I have been able to build relationships with my teammates and with my coaches so it can also be fun.”

As fun as the game may be and as much as he loves the game of football, for Johnson, football was not only something to do for fun, it was something he can do to build a future with. While talking to him about his vision growing up he mentioned, “I grew up in New Orleans(, Louisiana) and if you know anything about Louisiana or the USA in general you would know that football is big there. Athletes don’t just play football for fun they want to make it their job later on and even though I didn’t play football when I lived there I was exposed to people with those visions of playing football for their future and it’s something you see a lot of in the states so when I picked it up I had a little bit of the same mentality to it.” Shane Johnson was born and lived in Louisiana until about 2005 after Hurricane Katrina had hit New Orleans and left a lot of damage. Luckily for Johnson and his family though they were able to come to Ottawa, where his mother had already been. 

In Ottawa, as a kid Shane Johnson played a lot of sports but he mentions, “I didn’t play football.” and he explained, “I played a lot of soccer. I honestly wanted to play football a lot but it took a lot of convincing for my mom to let me play.”

Being able to start playing football in Ottawa finally, Johnson started with St Peters and then got serious about the sport more in 2019 with the North Gloucester Giants which because of the COVID-19 Pandemic was his most recent season. With the Giants, he was able to showcase his skills and in all he put on a show which was great to see for him, “I had some success that year.” Shane Johnson said, “I started to feel more comfortable playing the game and I was able to show more of my size and my speed against the talent I played against.”

That season spent with the Giants just recently as well as the other seasons that he has played here in Ottawa gave him a more understanding of what he wants to do as a football player and he is adamant that he will have a future in football. A future in football is something that several players in the city of Ottawa have and have had in the past, bringing Johnson to the group as he says, “I’ve always wanted to do something big in football and I hope to make it to the NFL but its not an easy path to the NFL so I’m setting smaller goals for myself, the next is to be the best University athlete I can be.” His next goal, to be the best University athlete possible will be able to happen at Windsor University where he will be playing in the OUA of the U-Sport level in Canada, replying to his commitment he said, “Yes, it’s all official now and I’m so excited to have this opportunity to play there and play college football!” 

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College football in 2020 was something that was on but that also was off, similar to football for Shane Johnson. Some leagues and conferences had a season this past year, some had a shortened season and some didn’t have a season at all, for Shane Johnson, he didn’t have a season and neither did Windsor University so the two sides of the story will be fresh for what we hope will be a 2021 season. Johnson, even-though he hasn’t played in over a full year, like a lot of athletes you hear of the most he has been staying ready and working on being the best he can moving forward in his football career. “I know a lot of people are going to be using this time off as an excuse to not work harder but for me its given me an excuse to work.” said Shane, “I have been getting right on all aspects, I’ve been in the gym, I’ve stayed right mentally and I’ve been eating healthy too so I can be the best receiver possible.” The 6-foot-2 receiver had also said in my interview with him, “I have been putting myself in every camp and football event possible I have done formula 11 which helped me a lot with my footwork and receiver techniques being able to train with some CFL players and then another one I did was Uplift 613 and that helped me match myself up against other talent so it has really been great.”

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From all of the football he has watched and played over the years and all of the training that Shane Johnson has been able to do over this past year, Johnson has done the best of his ability to be the best receiver he can be but he has also watched a lot of film on his favourite players. When talking about some NFL receivers he likes to watch he said, “being where I’m from, I’m a Saints fan and I wear number 12 on the field because of Marques Colston who wore 12 for the Saints. I watched him growing up and he was my favourite player and then also as a Saints fan I have watched a lot of Michael Thomas but overall when I watch these guys and I train I just try to be a fast receiver that can get open and make a play in the open field.”

JZ’s Scouting Reports; Josh Sowah, the most athletic linebacker you will find, a former safety shows ability to go in coverage

The standard linebacker, we all think, would be a bigger than average athlete, not too fast and his main job is to plug a hole and stop the run while blitzing here and there. Well, that was exactly what a linebacker was at one point in the history of the game of football, though now in modern era football, linebackers can do anything. There are linebackers in the NFL and in the CFL that are as short as 5’8, 5’7 which breaks the height/size barrier at the position and then there is also a group of linebackers who have extended exactly what their roles are as well. Now in the NFL you have linebackers who could easily transfer into a safety, a defensive lineman or even a defensive back all depending on their abilities and their size, some examples would showcase players like Isaiah Simmons or Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah who at the division one level with both Clemson and Notre Dame were able to do a lot in coverage almost like a safety and then at the NFL level you see players like Kahlil Mack and Hasaan Reddick who can easily jump on the defensive line as a edge rusher. It is clear that the game of football is changing and changing quickly, though the whole football community, including the youth leagues are adapting to the change fairly well. A great way to showcase that would be looking at some of the better linebackers at the youth and high school level, a large group of them are still run stoppers and fairly big players, but you can tell that there are also a lot of dynamic players that show the ability to play across the board, whether its at edge on the line or going into coverage at safety or even defensive back. One of the better players in the Ottawa area, Josh Sowah has been among the players changing the game, showing how dynamic linebackers can be. 

Sowah, standing at 6-foot-3, over 200 pounds is clearly a stud at the linebacker position. Having the ability to stop the run, attack the passer as well as play around the field and be versatile enough to go into coverage but those aren’t all familiar traits you would see in a high school linebacker. Usually in high school you see linebackers that are bigger, and there to plug a hole to stop the run. What sets Josh Sowah aside from linebackers his age is the history he has at other positions. Sowah’s experience at safety with the Ottawa Sooners ties in a lot with his abilities to go into coverage and also a main reason for his athleticism and ability to fly across the field with ease which are all abilities which the University of British Columbia like to see in him and are major reasons why they are bringing him in for 2021. 

Mentioning it a little bit with the time he spent at safety with the Sooners as well as the transition to linebacker, Sowah hasn’t been around the game of football really for that long but the time he has spent playing has been very valuable, “I started playing JV (Junior Varsity) with the Sooners, I played there for 3 years and I also played football north a little bit as well.” he said, “I know some guys that have been playing for longer so I know when I say I’ve only been playing for 4 or 5 years it doesn’t sound like a lot but I sure have learnt a lot throughout it all.” Though it wasn’t the longest amount of time, Sowah says he learnt a lot and what he learnt as a football player, whether it was at safety or linebacker, shows on film a lot. On his HUDL, linked to this article, he features film from his time with both the Sooners in Ottawa and Football North where he played against top talent from Canada as well as some in the United States. While looking over his film on HUDL with me, CFL linebacker Christophe Mulamba who is also the founder of Linebacker Prototype said, “This guy is an athlete. You can see that he can play all over the field, showing a lot of versatility and that’s something that coaches like to see.” Being versatile is something that comes natural for Sowah and it’s a great trait to have like Mulamba mentioned. Having been a safety earlier in his football career and now that he’s grown into a linebacker body type he still is quite the fast player but also knows how to use his size at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds effectively. “He is aggressive.” Mulamba added to his evaluation, “He has a good mindset, to put the guys on the ground and thats really all that you ask for from your linebacker. I like to see him being physical because that way you’re able to see not only is he athletic but he can hit too.”

In all, watching Josh Sowah on film, you could tell that he is one of the most athletic and more physical players on the field when he is on it but he’s also a great player in coverage. From the time he spent at safety he learnt a lot about going into coverage, both man and zone coverage and you can tell, seeing interception after interception on his highlight tape and film that he is very good in coverage which at linebacker is an awesome advantage and as for the University of British Columbia where Sowah signed to, they’re getting a steal. Talking about a player with speed, strength, a good football I.Q and on top of that an ability to go into coverage and blitz while stopping the run as well, Josh Sowah has a bright future ahead of him and you have every right to be excited about it. Already pumped up about his career at UBC, Sowah said, “I’m excited to go out there and play at the next level. There are some other guys from Ottawa over there, one of my teammates Isaiah Knight from the Ottawa Sooners is going to be playing there with me and we’re going to have some fun there but more importantly we’re there to prove ourselves right.” he continued, “It’ll be tough to adapt to the level of talent since I haven’t played against top talent like I will be but I’m going to go there and show what I can do.” 

As mentioned earlier, Sowah can do a lot of things and is an exciting player to watch. An exciting player to watch, and one of the most exciting to watch in all of Canada, being named Canada Football Chat’s number one multi-positional athlete as well as the country’s 13th overall player. The linebacker is easily one of the best in the city of Ottawa and is a steal for the University of British Columbia going on with the future. 

JZ’s Scouting Reports; Maleek Russell, the best downhill running, old school linebacker in Ottawa

Here in the city of Ottawa we are lucky to have a lot of talent. Talent across the board, offense, defense, special teams, quarterbacks to safeties wherever on the field, the city has some studs and out of all the positions on the field, I personally believe the linebacking core, from all the defensive positions is the most talented. The names may not all be division one and flashy right now, but matching their talent today with their potential as well as what they’ve achieved so far in their careers, it’s exciting and these are some big time players. Among the list of linebackers that we do have in the city of Ottawa, a player that has proven himself at all of the levels he has played at is Maleek Russell. 

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Though Russell isn’t originally from Ottawa, and actually started playing football in Oshawa with a local youth team, the Oshawa Hawkeyes, he lives in the city now and has played in Ottawa recently with the St Matthews Tigers at the High School level. His time with St Matthews is by far the main reason to put him in the talks as one of the best linebackers in the city and I’m confident that his youth football career in Oshawa has a part in his current success. The time he spent with the Oshawa Hawkeyes and Donald A Wilson High School in Durham got him started in football, he got to know all of the main fundamentals and basics early in his life and watching him now, even after his shortened season this past year with Kiski School in Pennsylvania you can tell that he knows what he is doing. “He has been playing football for a while.” said Christophe Mulamba, a CFL linebacker and founder of Linebacker Prototype as he looked at Russell’s film, “You can tell that he has been taught all of the fundamentals and he has been coached well enough to do all of the right things at the position but he also does a good job of using his own style of play.” As he talks about getting Maleek on his team at St Matthews Coach Jean Guillaume adds to the conversation, “When he came you could tell he already played for a couple seasons and he was very coachable as well for what he didn’t know. He became a great player for us early and I was happy he was here (at St Matthews).”

Having known the fundamentals, for Russell it was an easy transition to the high school level in Ottawa and it showed a lot from looking at the success he had at St Matthews as well as the success he had earlier in Oshawa. He was built to play at a high level, winning defensive MVP on 3 teams he’s been on, winning one Most Outstanding Linebacker and two Special Teams MVPs over his football career. The awards show how he can help a defense and the team overall be in a position to win games and luckily for him and the rest of the St Matthews Tigers team, the whole team had their own attributes to add to Maleek’s and as a team they were able to win a championship in 2018, Maleek Russell’s first year in Ottawa. 

Winning a championship and winning the awards he won through his early football career both at the youth level and the high school level he was able to in a sense have a headstart to the career he wants to have. Growing up playing football, the goal is to play in the NFL and to accomplish just that you have to have early success and a vision for where you want to go. As for Maleek Russell, the success was already there and according to his high school coach Jean Guillaume he has a vision as well and that vision was clear, “Just coaching him you could tell he wanted to do big things and he does everything so that he can do just that. He works hard, he is a great student in the classroom and he stays out of trouble, As a coach it was great to have him on the team to have that mentality around and leadership.” Having that mentality around was a great thing for the St Matthews Tigers defense and it showed on the field. He made play after play with the Tigers and showed what he was all about, getting some looks his way while doing so as well, “He’s a violent player.” said CFL linebacker Christophe Mulamba, “On film you could tell that he is a down hill runner, and he is always looking for the ball. He plays an old school style of defense at the linebacker position and thats what makes him unique it looks like because not a lot of players are like that anymore and I think with all of that he reminds me of myself a little bit. I play old school linebacker a lot myself and he sticks out to me for that.” A violent, downhill running, old school style of play linebacker who reminds CFL professional linebackers of themselves is exactly what Maleek Russell is and after playing several years in Canada, in Oshawa, Durham and Ottawa he was able to show what he is all about south of the border. Most major success stories from the game of football in Ottawa have a tie with the USA, whether its because they went their on the way to success or thats where they ended up being successful we all have heard the term ‘the land of opportunity’ and it being America, Maleek Russell recently had the opportunity to go to the USA to play football. In a restricted year because of the Covid-19 pandemic we are in he didn’t have the exact experience he had envisioned, though football is football no matter what the situation is.

Russell had the opportunity to go play for Kiski School in Pennsylvania where he went to school for prep school and would play a shortened high school football season. He ended up playing in two good games which he had put on his HUDL for film purposes, and you could tell that his talent isn’t only good in Canada. On film, even when he’s playing with and against top talent he looks like one of the best players on the field every time he’s out there. He is able to make a consistent amount of plays, blitzing the quarterback, stopping the run and going into coverage on the occasion which is all very good to see and there’s no doubt that he should get an opportunity at the next level and with no offers yet and his recruitment 100% open CFL linebacker Christophe Mulamba said, “He has a lot of potential, he is very physical which a lot of people look for at the linebacker position and just seeing what he can do if the right person sees him and he continues to work he can have a big opportunity somewhere.”

A big opportunity is something everyone dreams of from playing football and it is something that Maleek Russell is still striving for and luckily for him he’s got a great support group around him to make something happen. A part of the group is one that’s already talked highly of Maleek and one that knows a lot about recruiting and coaching linebackers from coaching division one players like Indiana’s Kervens Bonhomme, West Virginia’s Akheem Mesidor and many more Coach Jean Guillaume. Guillaume when talking about comparing Russell to a professional linebacker he didn’t fully compare the two but he mentioned, “Maleek and Ray Lewis. They have a lot of the same traits. They are two old school linebackers and the one thing that makes it clear for me is Maleek’s ability to plug the hole and how he is able to sacrifice his body every down.” For Maleek, it makes sense why he may seem like a Ray Lewis style player because he studies film on players who are very similar to Ray Lewis and maybe more advanced because they are from a modern era of football, “I model my game after two players, Jaylon Smith and Patrick Willis. They both are very quick to the ball, playing hard nose football making their presence felt.”

As Maleek Russell continues to hope make his presence felt at the next level, coaches will continue to look over what kind of player he is exactly and he will get better so that when the opportunity does come it will last. 

JZ’s Scouting Reports; Matthew Michael Assivero, a player with a high football I.Q and a lot of potential

In the city of Ottawa there are several different activities to do as a kid. You can do all sorts of things and one of the most popular things for a lot of people would be to get into sports. At the professional level alone the city has a lot of variety when it comes to sports, having the Ottawa Senators in the NHL, Ottawa 67s for hockey, the Ottawa Titans for baseball, Atlético Ottawafor soccer, the Ottawa Blackjacks for basketball and the newly found Ottawa Aces for Rugby alongside some less known professional teams in the city, though at the amatuer level you have the choice of any sport and for Michael Assivero he tested the waters in both basketball and swimming before he’d go on to play football. When he started playing football with the Orleans Bengals in NCAFA he said it was, “different” and explained, “playing basketball you can’t have any physical contact or else you’d get a foul and for football every single play there is physical contact.” Having so much physical contact compared to the two sports he participated in before, though it didn’t take long for him to adapt to the new sport. With the Orleans Bengals Matthew Michael was able to play with and played around a lot of great players, and it was an awesome way for him to be introduced to the sport and have early success in it, “With the Bengals I played with a lot of guys who I ended up playing with at St Matthews like Nathan Casimir, Jaylen Guy and then there were a lot of guys that I didn’t play with but played Bengals and I watched them play like Katley Joseph who is now playing division one football.”

His time with the Orleans Bengals started in 2015 for the Mosquito team and ended in 2018 just before he started to play with the St Matthews Tigers at the Junior Varsity level and even-though it was just a 3 year time span that he spent with them it helped make him a better football player and gave him a lot of knowledge within the sport. When talking about his time playing with the Orleans Bengals and the importance of playing youth football he said, “It was a great learning experience for me and I think it helped me when I went to St Matthews to have played football already.”  One thing that he had pointed out too when he talked about how his time with the Bengals helped him in the future was the fact that his playing experience gave him more understanding of the game of football, “Playing football when I was younger increased my football I.Q and that is something I believe sets me aside from other players, and more specifically linebackers.”  Linebackers in the game of football are known to be physical, and a lot of the time people are given the idea that the players in the position only are a part of the physical aspect of the game but Matthew Michael is among a number of linebackers looking to change that idea. Using his football I.Q and helping change the idea of the linebacker position, the 6 foot, 180 pound shows his smarts, reading the play and using the fundamentals he’s learnt playing football making himself a threat to the opposing offense. 

Talking to Matthew Michael Assivero, I was able to recognize how much he emphasizes his smarts on the field. He makes it clear that he is able to read plays and use his fundamentals to the best of his advantage, though it’s not only him that thinks that way. Many linebackers at the professional and division one level are like Assivero and put their mental aspects ahead of their physical ability on the field. Among the professionals who do exactly that is Christophe Mulamba, a linebacker for the Ottawa Redblacks in the CFL and a former Maine Blackbear at the division one level. As Mulamba watched Assivero’s latest highlight on YouTube he said himself, “He isn’t the biggest and he isn’t the fastest player on the field but he plays big and he plays fast and he plays with a lot of confidence.” and he also thought that the film he saw “reminded me of myself.” he said, “in my career I’ve had a few injuries and its limited my ability as a player because of my physical abilities, but it’s also taught me to be more mental while playing and that’s something he (Matthew Michael) does very well. When I got hurt it was tough for me to adapt to what I can and can’t do but I always knew the game of football and it helped me get up to speed with the rest of the players, that’s something I can tell with Matthew can do very well as well, to be able to matchup against faster players and bigger players and using fundamentals and his smarts.” Even to back that up was Coach Jean Guillaume who actually coached Matthew Michael at St Matthews as he said, “Mulamba is very right with his evaluation and from coaching him first hand you can tell that M&M is a very smart player. He is a straight A student in school and as a player you as a coach don’t have to ask him twice for things. M&M was a freshman playing among seniors and players on victory laps and you could tell exactly how good of a player he was because of what he knew and the confidence he brought on the field.”

Being a young superstar for the St Matthews Tigers defense, Matthew Michael made a total 36 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 safety, 1 interception as well as a defensive touchdown. These numbers showed everything, and so did his film. He was a class act on and off the field,  being a rookie on the team he was very well respected by the older players and even the coaches having won the defensive rookie of the year award for the St Matthews Tigers team. Guillaume adds, “He is the real deal. His teammates were amazed by his talent and his knowledge and if you look at what he does on the field and you were to compare him to anyone it would have to be Troy Polamalu.” Polamalu, a 2 time Super Bowl Champion and 8 time NFL pro bowler is an NFL hall of famer. You aren’t going to be saying that Matthew Michael Assivero is an NFL Hall of Famer by comparing him to Troy Polamalu, but you are more looking at the traits that they share and some of those traits and qualities would be the insane athleticism that Polamalu showed in the NFL and Assivero is very quick as well. Not only is he quick but like Polamalu, Matthew Michael also uses his football knowledge to read plays and make decisions in game speed. 

All in all, he is a great player, he has shown a lot of what he’s able to do here in Ottawa at both the NCAFA level with the Orleans Bengals and the high school level with the St Matthews Tigers, though it is time for him to go to a higher level to showcase his talent. He has a lot of potential and could very well play at the division one or CIS level one day but to be able to get there he needs exposure, “Its exposure that he needs.” said Jean Guillaume who knows Assivero very well and has coached him, “There is no questioning that he is a talented player. I’ve only coached about 4 or 5 players that played varsity as a freshman and by far M&M was the most developed. He was 4 years younger than a lot of the guys he was playing with and against but was still one of the best players on the field every time he was out there. If he can get the exposure that he deserves, whether it’s him playing in the states or going to a big camp I believe he will get a lot of attention.” Attention is what all football players in Canada dream of getting and for Matthew Michael Assivero its going to decide whether he goes and plays a high level of football or not. The young, fast, smart and physical linebacker has everything it takes when it comes to potential and if he gets the chance he could be a stud at the division one level, will he get the opportunity?

Help Matthew Michael Assivero get exposed as a football player now and share the article as well as vote his ranks on Twitter @jordanzlomislic. Stay tuned for more at https://jzmedia.ca/

Sherrod Baltimore gets re-signed by the Ottawa Redblacks and is, “Thankful and ready to compete”

Sherrod Baltimore and LP Bourassa celebrating an interception in the 2018 CFL East Final, photo by Robert Greeley

Since the Ottawa Redblacks entered the CFL in 2014, one of the team’s most valuable assets has been their defensive secondary and leading up to today they are continuing to grow as a group. The defensive backs room may have changed since the inaugural season, with the team having Jovon Johnson, Antoine Pruneau, Jerrell Gavins, Brandyn Thomopson, Jermaine Robinson, Eric Fraser and Abdul Kanneh, though it hasn’t changed for the worse, its changed for the better and there is a lot of potential going forward with the defensive backs that the team has. Leading into the future, the Ottawa Redblacks look to have Antoine Pruneau and Abdul Kanneh back who did spend 2014 with the team as well but also will have young players like Justin Howell, Randall Evans, Corey Tindal, Gump Hayes, Brandin Dandridge, DeAndre Farris and the eye opening player from the defensive back room, Sherrod Baltimore. Baltimore has been with the Ottawa Redblacks since 2017 and it is clear that he has been one of the Redblacks’ best players since joining the team, from winning Rookie of the Year all the way to having a Grey Cup interception there is no doubting that he will be able to be the Redblacks’ number one cornerback moving forward.

My interview with Sherrod Baltimore from last off-season

Being the number one cornerback is something we can see moving forward and in the potential 2021 CFL season Sherrod Baltimore will be able to be in that position. After losing players like Jonathan Rose and Chris Randle over this long off-season, there is a perfect hole for Baltimore to fill going into the future and the hole will be filled with Sherrod Baltimore now being re-signed by the Redblacks. Making 93 tackles, intercepting 4 passes and having two fumbles in the 42 games played in red and black Baltimore has made a large impact, helping the team succeed and he is very thankful for the opportunity to be back in the city. When asked about the contract which brings him back to the Ottawa Redblacks for what will be his fourth CFL season Sherrod Baltimore said, “I’m thankful for this opportunity. Marcel (Desjardins), OSEG (Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group), the owners, Roger Greenberg, coach LaPolice, Benevides, coach Dyce, JM (Edme, Redblacks scout), Redblacks fans and the community and the city of Ottawa, thank you for everything.” and he continues, “I’m very thankful for this all but I’m just ready to compete.” Baltimore, like many, hasn’t played football in over a full calendar year and “ready to compete” is an understatement when you talk about how excited he will be to be back on the field in 2021, “I’m going to be sliding all over, I’m excited to be able to play football again.” said Sherrod Baltimore, “Its been a long time coming, and we are close to having the season for 2021. I’m staying ready for it so I don’t have to get ready.”

Sherrod Baltimore, like mentioned, has been a large part of the Ottawa Redblacks since he came to the team in 2017 and thats led to a lot of great things. He has put on a show on the field, making play after play on the defensive side of the ball although like many of his relationships with his teammates, like his relationship with Jonathan Rose, his show goes on off of the field as well, in the city of Ottawa. Over the past 4 years that he has been in Ottawa, Sherrod Baltimore has of course made the impact on the field for the Ottawa Redblacks, but has also built his name as a fan favourite in the city and has been a perfect role model for young football fans in Ottawa, “Sherrod isn’t like your average professional athlete.” Said St Matthews High School Football coach Jean Sorphia Guillaume in the documentary ‘The Journey From The 613’ partially directed by Sherrod Baltimore, “He is in the community non stop. He makes it clear that he isn’t about the fame and as a coach in the city it makes me happy to see what he does. When he comes to coach the kids you can see it in the kids eyes and faces that they are excited to have him out there. As much as he is a professional athlete he has regular conversations with kids and its amazing to see.” Baltimore, in the city of Ottawa has already done a lot, from working on documentaries within the city to helping kids in need its shown that his presence in Ottawa helps outside of just football and now that he knows he will be back in Ottawa for a little longer he wants to build off of what he’s done thus far.

“I haven’t been on another team in the CFL or even professionally so I am thankful to be able to come back to Ottawa.” Said Sherrod Baltimore, “It feels good to have the contract done, I can stop thinking about that now and I want to plan more and prepare to do more in Ottawa.” With the pandemic we are in now and all that the city of Ottawa has gone through over the time period, having Sherrod Baltimore around has helped put smiles on peoples faces and with him back in Ottawa we will be seeing a lot more smiles because of his work on and off of the field. “I’ve been training a lot, getting ready to be the best player of my ability when the season comes around and when the lockdown is done I have to do something in the community. I want to have more fundraisers and community events where I can be in the city in the future.”

Photo of Sherrod Baltimore taken by Rich Lambert

With the re-signing of Sherrod Baltimore, the Ottawa Redblacks won in so many ways. Not only did they get a great player back, but they got a great person as well. In order to have a CFL season this year for 2021 and to continue to have success in the CFL Sherrod Baltimore has a message for all Redblacks’ fans, “I haven’t played football in over a year, I want to get on that field so badly so I’m just going to continue to make sure I do my part, wearing my masks and I hope RNation (is) wearing their masks too!”

JZ’s Scouting Reports; Darius Mckenzie, Maine’s future defensive star is ‘all business’

As a football player in the city of Ottawa you are exposed to a lot of goals. Goals to play in the CFL, goals to play in the NFL, goals to play at the division one level, goals to play at the CIS level or even goals to become a coach or scout in the future, and in recent history every goal you have within the game of football has begun to look more reachable. The city of Ottawa and the surrounding regions have hosted several world class athletes, as of late we’ve a lot of those athletes come from the game of football, Alex Mateas, Neville Gallimore, Akheem Mesidor and Eli Ankou just to name a few and the list only continues to grow. On the list now and a name that you will begin to know very well is Ottawa resident and now Maine University linebacker Darius Mckenzie. Mckenzie himself has seen a number of Ottawa products succeed at the next level and looks to do so himself come fall of 2021 with the Maine Blackbears. 

Mckenzie, a linebacker, signed with the University of Maine in late 2020 for NCAA’s early signing day and himself alongside his other teammates at Clearwater Academy International put a dent in history having 10 players sign to Division 1 programs. For himself to get to this point, like his 9 teammates who had also signed to Division 1 programs, a lot had to go in and it took a lot of work, though he always knew what he wanted the end result to be. “I always wanted to play at a high level,” said Mckenzie, “Football was always something fun I could do and I started playing because it was fun but when I got more into it I knew what I wanted to do and that was to be the best player I could be and do it at a high level.” It started out as a dream, like it does for many but it didn’t take long for it to be reachable. After playing football for a few years, at the age of 11 Darius began his training with Victor Tedondo of Gridiron Academy in Orleans, Ontario. Tedondo has a history of helping players get to the next level, having a number of players at both the CIS and NCAA division one level as well as a few professional athletes, one being Eli Ankou of the Dallas Cowboys. When talking about training with Gridiron Academy and seeing players go to the next level Mckenzie pointed out, “It was great. He (Victor Tedondo) helped me a lot, I improved a lot because of the training I did with him and seeing that he got guys to the next level already helped give me a reason to keep going back and working.” On Victor Tedondo’s side of the story he also had commented, “He is all business. Darius is a very mature kid and he had a good progression from training with Gridiron Academy, he knows what he wants to accomplish moving forward.”

Getting better, in the city of Ottawa Mckenzie jumped on every opportunity that came to him to play football, playing football for the Orleans Bengals, Cumberland Panthers, South Gloucester Raiders, Myers Riders, and the North Gloucester Giants all spaced out from 2010 to 2018. The majority of the teams he played for were just for the local youth league in Ottawa, NCAFA which is a league where a lot of players start to play football in and start to grow as football players and when Darius Mckenzie had grown as a football player he explored other opportunities within the game of football. Doing so, he expanded and played in an Ontario wide league, OVFL with the Myers Riders. He only did so for the 2017 season, though in that season alone he was able to see more of what talent was like outside of Ottawa and he improved heavily as a football player from that moment on. Sticking to NCAFA in Ottawa for the 2018 season, Mckenzie had if not the best season you can ask for from a linebacker. In 11 games played with the North Gloucester Giants he tallied 146 tackles, 43 tackles for loss, 15 sacks as well as 7 forced fumbles. Having a nose for the ball and making a play every single play he was out there for he ended up winning the team’s Defensive Player of the Year award and was later granted opportunities to further his football career. 

Darius Mckenzie playing at Western Reserve Academy

For the most part, if you play division one football from Ottawa or from Canada in general you likely went to a prep school in the states to make your name known across the border, and like he did with players in the past Vic Tedondo of Gridiron Academy helped Mckenzie get onto Western Reserve Academy for the 2019 football season. The prep school in Hudson, Ohio was Darius’ home for 2019 and while there he was able to make a name for himself, being named the team’s defensive player of the year with 82 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 7 forced fumbles and playing on the offensive side of the ball and totalling some recoveries together he had a total 13 touchdowns on 1,426 all-purpose yards. There is no arguing that Mckenzie, standing at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds was a huge asset for the school’s football team in 2019 and when talking about the first season spent across the border he says himself, “It was a great experience. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity given to me where I can play there and while I was there I think I improved as a player and it only got me better for the next season.” The next season though, to be in a better spot recruiting wise, Darius Mckenzie transferred to Clearwater Academy International in Florida. 

Darius Mckenzie at Western Reserve Academy

For the Clearwater Academy Knights, Mckenzie brought everything with him to be the best player of his ability and he did exactly that. At Clearwater, Mckenzie played alongside Edwin Wilson Tara Kolenge, the number one player in Canada in his age group and the 205th on the ESPN 300 list, they made up of a strong linebacking group and the defense was equally as strong, having a number of future division one athletes on the team, some of them from Ottawa. From Ottawa, like Mckenzie there was defensive backs Nathan Casimir, Shakespeare Louis, defensive lineman Ebenezer Dibula as well as wide receiver Alex Vilain and coach Jean Guillaume. When talking about the great group of Ottawa and Canadian players that Clearwater has, Sports Illustrated All American writer John Garcia said, “The secret is out. CAI have been getting a lot of great players from Canada and Ottawa has had a good group of players come down and succeed. Jean (Guillaume) has a big impact on that and it’s only going up from here. Canada is paving the way for international athletes.”

Of course the group was powerful and helped the team play good week in week out, though setting Mckenzie aside as an individual he did a lot for the Knights’ defense. As he looked over the film that Mckenzie had from the 2020 season, CFL linebacker and University of Maine alumni Christophe Mulumba said to me, “I like his athleticism.” and continued, “This is a player that shows he can play anywhere on the front seven and he will be good at the next level. He is a linebacker, but he is a very good blitzer and has played some defensive line already and been good on the edge.”  In a longer description Mulumba also said that Darius Mckenzie would “do a lot at the next level” and he believes that a good way of using him would be, “having him at linebacker for first and second down and then as a pass rusher on third down.” as he said, “That would be something that I could see the Maine coaches doing with him, but no matter how they play him he is a great tackler and will be a good player for them.”

Darius Mckenzie at Clearwater Academy

Though he was saying all of this while watching Mckenzie’s highlight tape, this wasn’t the first time he’d seen Darius Mckenzie play, “I’ve watched his highlight before he signed to Maine, one of my old coaches sent it to me to look over… I’m proud to see it(another Canadian at Maine). I was probably one of the first Canadians they had at the school and now to see where they are now, having Katley (Joseph), (Liam) Dobson and now bringing in more guys its good to see. They’ve obviously had success with the Canadians they’ve had so I can see why they keep coming back to them.” Mckenzie will be going to Maine for the 2021 fall season, following their spring season in March which replaces the missed 2020 season. Signing with the Blackbears though, Mckenzie also had offers from other division one schools such as the University of Pennsylvania, Campbell University, Howard University, Colgate University and of course Maine University. With him going to Maine University, he will be able to showcase his skills at the next level and that brings a lot of excitement to the media, especially for John Garcia of Sports Illustrated, “Darius Mckenzie is a player to be excited about if you’re Maine. He is a great player and was a great player for CAI this past year, playing linebacker and defensive end but also going on the offensive side of the ball and doing a lot on special teams.” he said, “Its important at the next level to have ball skills and we saw that with Mckenzie with Clearwater where he went on the offense and took in a role on special teams, he is comfortable with the ball in his hands and he can catch as well so if he can learn the fundamentals he may be able to use his raw abilities to go into coverage as well.”

If Mckenzie were to learn the fundamentals and take on a role to go into coverage at the next level with the Maine Blackbears he can be a very good player for them because of what else he can do and he is a player to keep all eyes on at the next level. 

Darius Mckenzie at Clearwater Academy International

Mckenzie will travel to Maine in the fall and will play his freshman season with the University hopefully in 2021 following the team’s spring season in March. He will be one of three Ottawa natives at the school playing for the Blackbears, on the defensive side of the ball he will be playing with St Matthew’s alumni Katley Joseph and coming with him to Maine is Antonio Corsi at Tight End. When talking about the upcoming opportunity and the familiarity within it he said in a conversation with myself, “I’m excited. I train with Antonio Corsi so going there with him will be fun but all around this has been something I’ve been dreaming of since I started playing so it’ll be a great experience to go there and I want to be able to prove myself there and show everybody what I’m about as a player.” Proving himself at Maine is something he will look to do so keep all eyes on Darius Mckenzie at the next level, while he shows why he is one of the best defensive players from the city of Ottawa.

JZ’s Scouting Reports; Edwin Wilson Tara Kolenge, the number one high school football player in Canada


When you think about the game of football what do you think about? Many would say that they think about the physical aspect of the game, the tackling and there’s no other position in football which demonstrates exactly that than the linebacker position. That linebacker position is something that the country of Canada knows very well as you can now see several Canadian linebackers at the university and professional level. Of the linebackers that we will be hearing a lot of in the future because of the impact he’s going to have at the next level would be Montreal native Edwin Wilson Tara Kolenge. 

Tara Kolenge is well known already, not only in Canada but in the United States as well. Following a 2020 Junior season at Clearwater Academy in Florida he was named a 4 star recruit and he is only going to get better ahead of his 2022 signing day where he’ll likely sign to a power 5 school. Of course for Edwin to get to this point of his life, where he is getting looked at by some of the best football programs, he had to do a lot of work and even though he has a number of division one scholarship offers already he will not stop working until he is the best player he can be. When asked about his journey to get to where he is now he said, “I played soccer and I did swimming when I was little so when I started to play football in youth league in Montreal I fell in love with the game. It was the first time I was able to show my physicality and it was actually the first sport that I wanted to play because my parents made me do the other ones.” Showing his physicality, Edwin Wilson Tara Kolenge played for the Verdun Ti-Cats in Verdun Quebec from ages 9-11 and then when he started high school at 12 years old (Quebec High Schools start at Grade 7) he went to Dalbe Viau High School in Lachine, Quebec. At Dalbe Viau High School he was able to play the game of football, and improve in the game, “When I started playing football I wasn’t good but I wanted to be good so I started to spend more time working on getting better.” As he started to improve as a player, Tara Kolenge began to have higher standards, aiming to be on team Canada or team Quebec after seeing players he knew achieve just that, though he knew he wouldn’t be able to get to that point on his own. 

At the age of 15 Edwin started training outside of the Montreal area, mostly in the city of Ottawa alongside former teammate and star linebacker Johari McGregor. Training in Ottawa, he was able to meet several great coaches, one being Jean Guillaume, Ottawa’s 2020 Coach of the Year. When asked about meeting Edwin, Guillaume said, “When I met him I could tell just how much he wanted (to get better) and I remember him telling me that he wanted to play division one football and as a coach I wanted to make sure it happened.” Guillaume, a reason on why he got the 2020 award in the city of Ottawa, has brought several players to the next level, both CIS and NCAA, therefore it shouldn’t be too much for him to get Edwin Tara Kolenge to the next level. 

Standing at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, Tara Kolenge’s first event south of the border and his first real exposure to scouts and coaches at the division one level came at the “Best of Midwest” combine in Indianapolis with Jean Guillaume’s Ottawa players. The combine, in the past, has hosted several NFL players, Marshon Lattimore, Denzel Ward and Jaylon Smith just to name a few and for Kolenge, it was an outstanding opportunity to get better and showcase what he’s about as a player. Talking about the combine and the impact Jean Guillaume had on him from meeting him he said, “The Best of Midwest Combine was my first experience in the USA for football and it was very good for me. I got to see where I was compared to some of the best players, I’m very thankful for coach Jean for bringing me to it and for everything he’s done for me too.”

Many in the city of Ottawa don’t know who Edwin Wilson Tara Kolenge is and there is no problem with that because he isn’t from the city, though he has been welcomed to the city with open arms through the game of football. From all of the training he has done with Jean Guillaume’s Ottawa Maroons, to how much he has gotten to know athletes and members of the football community in Ottawa, he is considered a part of the city. “The city of Ottawa has helped me a lot” said Tara Kolenge, “Especially Coach Jean with all of the training and camps I’ve done with him.” He then continued to say, “Ottawa has shown me the road to America for football. In Quebec there aren’t a lot of people that go that route, but in Ottawa and in Ontario it’s more popular so to be around guys that play at a high level is good.”

Now being a part of Ottawa’s football community, there is no doubt that he is the best player in the area, let alone the linebacker position. Of course Ottawa has a good group of linebackers, some that have opportunities in the USA like Edwin, but Tara Kolenge has proven himself to be better than them and is up there to be the best player in all of Canada. In 2020, for his respective age group he was named number 1 on the Canadian Football Chat 100 list, 205th on the ESPN 300 list and he was named a 4 star recruit by several sports media platforms, including Rivals, 247 Sports and Sports Illustrated All American. He is proven to be a number one player, and thanks to a tremendous opportunity in 2020 he has shown that he’s able to keep up with some of the best athletes in his age range. That opportunity being his 2020 High School football season in Florida, USA with Clearwater Academy International where he is coached by well known Florida HS coach Jesse Chinchar. The opportunity though, to go to Florida and play football where football is practically a religion was a no brainer when it came up for Edwin Wilson Tara Kolenge though there were a few factors which played into whether he’d go there or not. When going through the process of going there he decided to go there because, “They have a good history with Canadian players.” he said, “They’ve had a lot of Canadians go to their school and have success going to the division one level and I want to do that so for me to have an opportunity to go there it was a easy decision.” 

Over recent years, the Clearwater Academy Knights have had a lot of Canadians attend the school and sign to play at the division one level, a lot of them from Ottawa. To name a few, linebacker Kervens Bonhomme from Ottawa now at Indiana, defensive lineman from Ottawa Akheem Mesidor now at West Virginia, Canadian receivers Jared Wayne and Ajou Ajou at Pitt and Clemson and many more. Among the names mentioned, a good group of the players that have come from Canada and gone to CAI have had help from Jean Guillaume doing so. Its noticed that Guillaume and Chinchar bring a great duo at the high school level to have a number of players go the division one route, though to get to that point the players have to be good as well and Edwin Tara Kolenge isn’t just good, he is a one in a million athlete and he deserves every single accolade that he’s received and will receive in the future. Those accolades that he wants to have well he’s already put his eyes on some of them, “I want to win the Butkus award.” The Butkus award, awarded by the Dick Butkus foundation is awarded to the best linebacker at every level of football. An award is given to the best linebacker at each high school, college and professional stage, and for Edwin Wilson Tara Kolenge, he wants to win it at every level, “I want to be drafted into the NFL. I want to first go division one, graduate from school and then get drafted in the NFL. It has been my dream since I started football when I was 9 and I want to make sure I do it.” 

Of all of the players that want to win this award, there’s no arguing that Edwin Tara Kolenge can do it or not. In his first season across the border he turned some heads, tallying 86 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 2 pass break ups and 3 sacks in just 8 games, averaging over 10 tackles a game. The numbers you put up is one thing, but the film is another, when looking over Edwin’s film he shows every reason why he could be the first Canadian to win the Butkus award in 2021. Montreal native and former division one turned professional athlete Christophe Mulumba of the Ottawa Redblacks had said, “He has a lot of potential. You can tell that he is a great player, and he’s just starting to figure out what he’s doing as a linebacker. It was just his first year playing in the states and you have to factor in that he was far from home and playing against talent he hasn’t seen, as well as facing older guys and some have played football too.” with all of those factors playing in Mulumba comments, “He did good. There’s a reason that he has some offers already, it speaks for the talent he has and he showed that he can play at that level.”

The quotes came from Mulumba as he watched Tara Kolenge’s film, though it wasn’t the first time he’d watched him play. He commented, “I’ve trained him in Montreal before and I have watched his film too. He’s a big player, and he’s starting to figure out how to use his size and when he figures that out he will be very physical and he’s already a smart player so he’ll be an all around great player.”

He is a great player now and will be a great player at the next level, given what he’s done year by year he has improved heavily every year that he has played football and his mindset is to keep improving until he is the best he can be. Edwin mentioned in a conversation I had with him, “I want to be the best player that I can be. I only played a little bit last year and that was just a little bit of what I can do. I can do that and more, I look forward to showing that.” When it comes to the time where he will be able to show what kind of player he is next season he intends on being a better player, “Next year I’m not only wanting to be better, I will be a better player.” and it’s not only himself that thinks that, John Garcia Jr of Sports Illustrated All American said himself “It doesn’t take long to know how good of a player he is. He’s built like a linebacker at 6’3, 225 he is a big guy and he is very physical. It’s clear that he is a power 5 recruit and he’s a special player with a lot of upside and potential.” Garcia Jr, one that has covered several stories in the recruiting field and has covered a lot of Clearwater Academy International games as Sports Illustrated All American’s writer in the Tampa Bay, Florida region also said, “This is a player that can easily play 3 downs. He’s very good at stopping the run but he’s also shown an ability to pass rush and go into coverage.”

Doing just that, going into coverage, supporting the run and blitzing, he shows glimpses of a player that you would see a lot of at the next level and that has been something he’s had his mind set on since he started playing football when he was 9 years old. Edwin Wilson Tara Kolenge said, “I watch a lot of Luke Kuechly. He is a very good player, a good player that can do a lot as a linebacker and I’ve been trying to do as much of what he does to make my game similar.” The future Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker, Kuechly with the Carolina Panthers had over 100 total tackles in each of the 8 seasons played, with a total 12.5 sacks which looks great alongside his 34 career takeaways. In his NFL career though, he did a lot at the linebacker position, he was a part of the change at the linebacker position where you can now see linebackers in coverage frequently and you can see that now with Edwin Tara Kolenge. Supporting that again is Garcia Jr, “Kuechly is a Hall of Famer and a part of why he is would be his ability to go into coverage. He did a great job of that at the NFL level and you could see it a lot with Edwin. Watching him play at CAI this past year and seeing what he’s able to do as a linebacker you can see that he does have some of the same tactics that Kuechly has and its a reason why he has offers already.”

The offers he has already would consist of Syracuse University, University of Central Florida, Indiana University, Nebraska University, West Virginia University, East Carolina University, Boston College, Virginia Tech, University of Maryland, University South Carolina, Howard University, Georgia Tech University, University of Arizona, Jackson State University and Rutgers University totalling for 16 division one offers. Following his junior season and just his first season across the border Tara Kolenge is on the radar of several teams and will continue to receive offers as he goes back to Clearwater Academy next season in 2021. When he does go back to Florida next season, this will be a player to watch out for and he is hungry for the Dick Butkus award for the 2021 season. Keep your eyes out for him and continue to watch all of Ottawa and Canadian products going to the next level.