- Free Agency
Jon Gott spent Friday night at his favourite Byward Market haunt, front and centre as only a 294-pound lineman can be. He was the guest of honour at his own little “Going Away” party.
Next time he visits the “Smoque Shack” on York Street, Gott can wear his Smoque Shack hat, order the cornbread he reveres while celebrating a “Welcome Back” of sorts . . . without ever having left Ottawa.
The Ottawa REDBLACKS made the all-star offensive lineman Ottawa’s newest permanent resident and the projected mainstay of what will be an inexperienced line through the franchises early years. This was the result of shipping the first overall pick in Tuesday night’s CFL Draft to the Calgary Stampeders.
The REDBLACKS and Stampeders finalized the deal Monday afternoon, just in the nick of time to save Gott a lot of driving and untold litres of gas.
Truth be known, had the deal gone down a day later, Gott would likely have been Alberta Bound on the Trans-Canada Highway, with his tell-tale beard – one that would make the stars of Duck Dynasty proud – facing west.
It was that close after Gott spent all Monday packing with the gas tank reading full.
“I would have been on the road (Tuesday night) heading back,” said Gott, who spent the winter in Ottawa with girlfriend Nicole while training with King Football at the University of Ottawa. “I’d been here since December, just about as soon as the season ended.
“I was packing all day and then I got the call and stopped packing. I was totally surprised.
“I guess I’m stuck here now,” he joked, with Nicole within earshot.
For weeks leading up to the draft, REDBLACKS cagey general manager Marcel Desjardins refused to even hint about who the expansion club would select with the first overall pick while the experts knocked their brains. Mock drafts kept pointing to lineman Pierre Lavertu, of Laval University.
Desjardins was never misleading. He just wouldn’t speculate on a name.
And for good reason.
It was always his plan to get Gott and convert him to centre and allow Calgary to take Lavertu.
Desjardins wanted a Day One quarterback along the O-line and a rookie was not going to top an all-star just entering his prime.
“If Jon had been in this Draft, we would have taken him,” said Desjardins. “Everything just fit and we didn’t hesitate to make this deal.
“Trading for Jon Gott was by far a better option for us than making the first overall selection. Our coaching staff is familiar with Jon as a player and as a person, so we know he’ll be a strong performer and a good teammate.
“Jon has proven himself to be a reliable, responsible and durable CFL player and we’re happy to have him in the RedBlacks organization.”
As part of the deal, the REDBLACKS also peddled veteran centre Marwan Hage’s rights Calgary. Hage announced he would retire rather than join the expansion team.
Gott, meanwhile is a five-year veteran of the league and saw action in 16 games for the Stampeders, including 14 starts at left guard and one start at centre. He’s also just 28 was a first time West Division All-Star.
Gott, an Edmonton native who went on to attend college at Boise State, also gained valuable playoff and Grey Cup experience the previous year.
“I wouldn’t call us an expansion team,” said the laid-back Gott. “To me this is just another team to play with and I was pretty much the leader on the line with Calgary because that group was pretty young too.”
The REDBLACKS did manage to get in play midway through the first round, shipping veteran quarterback Kevin Glenn to the B.C. Lions for the fourth overall pick.
The cheering could be heard from inside the Ottawa war room as they made that pick defensive back Antoine Pruneau from the University of Montreal. Pruneau will need time to develop though he has size and skills to eventually start.
The REDBLACKS selected Queen’s wide receiver Scott MacDonnell in the second round and St. Mary’s defensive lineman Nigel Romick in the third round.
They then went back-to-back with offensive linemen in the fourth and fifth rounds, taking Toronto’s Aaron Wheaton and Laval’s Hugo Desmarais.
University of Windsor defensive lineman Stephon Miller was the 6th round pick while the final pick was Laval defensive lineman Vincent Desloges.