March 21, 2019

O’Leary: Boateng brings speed, intrigue to CFL Combine

Fresno State

A couple days removed from posting some impressive numbers at Fresno State’s pro day, Matt Boateng was happy, but not satisfied.

The Toronto-born defensive back posted a 4.38-second 40-yard dash, along with a 4.18-second shuttle and a 6.78-second three-cone. He broad jumped 10 feet and posted a 38-inch vertical leap and managed 14 reps in the bench press.

He worked out in front of 25 NFL teams and three CFL squads — Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton — according to Justin Dunk.

“I was pretty impressed by that, too,” he said of his time in the 40.

It was good, Boateng said, but he’s on to the next thing, and that’s this weekend’s 2019 CFL Combine presented by New Era. While some Canadian NCAA athletes will take part in their school’s pro day and bypass the CFL’s combine, Boateng is taking a different approach. He’ll be back under the stopwatches, spotters and the judging eyes of GMs, coaches and scouts on Friday, putting his body to the test again.

“(I’m) basically proving to the coaches and proving to everybody my skill set, things I’m confident about myself in as a football player, putting it on the big field and showing it all in front of the cameras,” he said.

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Part of that might be because Boateng is something of a question mark with CFL teams. He left Toronto after his grade 10 year to join the inaugural football team at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. After two years there — he roomed with Seattle Seahawks running back Bo Scarborough — he chose Kansas over 10 other offering schools. He played a year there before going to play junior college at Western Arizona, in scorching hot Yuma before jumping back to Div 1 football at Fresno.

That’s a lot of movement and not a lot of stats for scouts to go off of. He had 27 tackles, two interceptions and two pass breakups in his year at Yuma in 2016. He sat out the 2017 season at Fresno and in 2018 had one start but played in all 14 of the Bulldogs’ games. He had three tackles last year but his biggest moment of the season came in the Mountain West championship on Dec. 1, when he blocked a Boise State point-after-touchdown attempt. Fresno went on to win that game in overtime.

“I was really blessed to have that experience,” Boateng said. “That high school experience introduced me to American football and the speed of things. It helped me become the athlete that I am today.”

Monday’s pro day was an example of why Boateng is so intriguing. There’s certainly an athlete there and while the stats are limited, the six-foot, 175-pound aspiring cornerback finds ways to make an impact.

That he had two coaches at Fresno with extensive CFL experience adds to his intrigue. He spent the 2017 season learning from then-defensive coordinator Orlondo Steinauer, who is now of course the head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He also spent the last two years under the tutelage of Head Coach Jeff Tedford, who was the BC Lions’ head coach in 2015. Tedford played as a quarterback in the CFL for six years, with Hamilton, Calgary, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg.

“It definitely helps in my confidence coming back home,” Boateng said. “Especially with coach Tedford, he had a great stay in the CFL, made a lot of connections and knows a lot of people.

“He’s been mentoring me as well and same with Coach O (Steinauer) when he was here. We got to know each other really well and he helped me out feeling comfortable about the CFL.”

“The first thing that will stand out to you is the extremely straight line (speed),” Steinauer said of Boateng. “He’s very competitive and wants to do well.”

After re-joining the Ticats in 2018, Orlondo Steinauer will take over as head coach this season (

While Steinauer didn’t know about Boateng before they met in California, Boateng knew about him. He remembers going to Argos practices as a kid and getting autographs from the team, including the five-time all-star safety, Steinauer.

“I think Matt has a future, if he wants to play, if he chooses to apply himself,” Steinauer said.

“He’s bounced around a few schools but I think he’s in a good place right now in life and I hope he’s ready to contribute. I think he could have a long career up here if he so chooses.”

Ask any CFL prospect about a favourite team or preferred destination and you’ll almost always get a canned answer about being happy to play on any team. Boateng says that too, but he admits that there would be a special appeal to being chosen by the Ticats.

“I can’t help but not to (think about it),” he said. “It is basically a very similar defence to what coach O ran (at Fresno) so I think I’d be very comfortable going into that defence.

“(Hamilton is) also 45 minutes away from home, where I’m from in Toronto. That’d be a great situation. But any situation is a blessing and I’m coming in to ball.”