OTTAWA (CIS) – University of Saskatchewan defensive back Dylan Barker of Moose Jaw, Sask., became the fifth CIS player in seven years to be selected first overall in the Canadian Football League Canadian Draft and the second in as many years to hear his name called at No. 1 by the Hamilton Tiger Cats, Wednesday.
Barker also became the first-ever Huskie to go first overall in the CFL Draft. The last Saskatchewan player selected in the first round was slotback Nathan Hoffart, who went seventh in 2005.
Hamilton had chosen Regina wide receiver Chris Bauman with the top pick a year ago, while Laval defensive end Miguel Robébé (2005, Calgary), Saint Mary’s offensive lineman Steven Morley (2003, Calgary) and Laval offensive lineman Alexandre Gauthier (2002, Ottawa) were also recent first-overall selections out of CIS.
Since 1970, 18 CIS players have been chosen with the top pick.
Barker, a six-foot-four, 200-pound junior was a first-team all-Canadian each of the past two seasons and led Saskatchewan to the Canada West title and an appearance in the Vanier Cup national final in his first two campaigns at Saskatchewan, in 2005 and 2006. He played in the 2007 CIS East West Bowl and the 2008 East-West Shrine Game, in Houston.
Last fall, the 21-year-old arts and science student led the Huskies and ranked fifth in Canada West with 53 tackles. He also had three interceptions and broke up four passes as Saskatchewan was the top defensive unit in the conference against the pass allowing only 157.9 yards per game.
“I’m absolutely thrilled. There’s been a lot of talk over the last few days. I was told I might know yesterday (Tuesday) but in the end it came down to the wire,” Barker told TSN.ca from his home in Moose Jaw.
“I think I can make an impact right away (in the CFL) on special teams and move up from there. With the Huskies I worked my way up and became a starter my second season.”
Three other CIS players were selected in the eight-pick first round, compared to five in each of the last three drafts.
Regina offensive lineman Brendon LaBatte of Weyburn, Sask., was chosen sixth by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, UBC linebacker Shea Emry of Richmond, B.C., was taken seventh by the Montreal Alouettes, and Sherbrooke wide receiver Samuel Giguère of Sherbrooke, Que., closed out the opening round joining Barker as a Hamilton selection.
Giguère, the first-ever Vert & Or drafted to the CFL, was projected to go higher in the first round but dropped a few ranks after signing as a free agent with the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL on Sunday.
Thirty-three of the 48 players selected on the day come from CIS, marking the sixth time in seven years that at least 30 CIS players are drafted. CIS athletes represent 68.8 per cent of all selections.
The Vanier Cup champion Manitoba Bisons led the way with five players selected, part of 13 draftees from Canada West. The Vanier Cup finalist Saint Mary’s Huskies and Saskatchewan followed with three picks apiece, while Sherbrooke, Regina, McMaster, Montreal, Western Ontario and Laval each had two.
Defensive backs were the most popular CIS players as eight heard their names called, compared to only two a year ago. They were followed by receivers (7), offensive linemen (6), linebackers (5), defensive linemen (3), running backs (3) and quarterbacks (1).
LaBatte, a six-foot-four, 320-pound arts student, was a second-team all-Canadian last fall in his third campaign with the Canada West finalist Rams and helped the high-powered Regina offence lead the conference with an average of 32.1 points per game. Like Barker, he was on the West rosters at both the 2007 CIS East West Bowl and the 2008 East-West Shrine Game.
Emry, a six-foot-one, 235-pound junior led the Thunderbirds and finished fourth in Canada West with 57 tackles, including six for losses, in seven games in his first season at UBC after transferring from Eastern Washington University of the NCAA. He started nine of 11 games at Eastern Washington in 2006.
Giguère, a six-foot, 215-pound accounting student, had a breakthrough season in his third campaign with the Vert & Or in 2007 earning a spot on the first all-Canadian team after he led the Quebec conference and finished second in the nation with 871 receiving yards, placed fourth in the QUFL with 45 catches and tied for second with seven receiving touchdowns. He was named offensive player of the game for the East at the 2007 CIS East West Bowl and joined Barker and LaBatte at the East-West Shrine Game.
The 2008 CFL season gets under way on June 26.
CIS players selected in 2008 CFL Canadian Draft (33):
First round (8 total selections)
1. Dylan Barker, Saskatchewan, DB (by Hamilton)
6. Brendon LaBatte, Regina, OL (by Winnipeg)
7. Shea Emry, UBC, LB (by Montreal)
8. Samuel Giguère, Sherbrooke, WR (by Hamilton)
Second Round (8 selections)
5. (13 total) Mike Bradwell, McMaster, WR (by Toronto)
7. (15 total) Aaron Hargreaves, Simon Fraser, WR (by Winnipeg)