March 13, 2024

Cauz: 5 U SPORTS programs well repped in the CFL

Peter Power/

There is a reason I always root for and keep tabs on multi-All-Star, two-time Grey Cup champ and future Hall of Famer Chris Van Zeyl and it goes beyond my passion for pass protection. It’s because he came from my alma mater, McMaster University.

It’s a weird connection sports fans have, but for many of us we have this bond with players who went to the same schools as us. Even if we (I) attended a school before dial-up internet there is still educational kinship that exists when watching a player compete in the CFL that we saw at the collegiate level.

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Yes, it is unusual that I’ll feel a distant connection towards Toronto Argonauts receiver Tommy Nield, even though by the time he enrolled at McMaster my diploma was close to 20 years old. But that is just part of being a football fan. It’s why I will die on the hill that, if not for injuries, Jesse Lumsden was on his way to being an all-time Canadian running back and Marshall Ferguson is a swell fella and a great writer.

This is a long way of me saying (thanks for letting me reminisce) that with CFL Combine presented by New Era upon us I wanted to highlight several schools that will be represented at this years cone drill/40-yard dash/bench press extravaganza and remind everyone just how many current CFLers started their careers at these same schools who will be producing the next wave of CFL players.

With apologies to many U SPORTS football programs (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Queen’s) I am going to highlight five prominent educational institutions whose imprint can be seen on CFL rosters across the league.


Several Gryphons have been part of the 2024 Combine experience including defensive lineman Scott Murray and wide receiver Kaine Stevenson (both will be at the Combine next week in Winnipeg).

For Stevenson he could join a recent run of former Guelph receivers to find their way in the league. Clark Barnes is part of the Calgary Stampeders; Kiondre Smith with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and saw a big uptick in production in 2023 (701 receiving yards) while Kion Schaffer-Baker has been with the Saskatchewan Roughriders for three seasons. Running back Johnny Augustine went from going undrafted in 2017 to a dependable back-up running back with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Finally, defensive back Royce Metchie has won two Grey Cups with the Toronto Argonauts.

Wilfrid Laurier

As a McMaster alum it pains me to highlight the current contributions by former Golden Hawks but here we are. The standout is two-time All-Star receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. who should bounce back in 2024 with McLeod Bethel-Thompson and the Edmonton Elks. Former Gittens teammate defensive lineman Robbie Smith will always be a part of playoff history with his 109th Grey Cup-sealing field goal block for Toronto. Defensive backs Godfrey Onyeka (Saskatchewan) and Scott Hutter (Edmonton) have been in the league for four years while defensive lineman Sam Acheampong (Edmonton) and offensive lineman Bryce Bell (Calgary) are both plying their trade out West.

Laurier players taking part in the 2024 Combine: Defensive linemen Luke Brubacher and Brandon Omonuwa and offensive lineman Cooper Hamilton


Laval alum Boris Bede has carved out a solid career for himself, helping the Argos to a Grey Cup win in 2022 (Kevin Sousa/

Find me a player who dominated at the U SPORTS level and then in the CFL like Laval’s Mathieu Betts! Betts won the J.P. Metras Award (Most Outstanding Down Lineman) a record three times and is now the CFL’s reigning best defensive player.

The opposite of a pass rushing menace, kickers David Côté and Boris Bede made a combined 76 field goals in 2023. I wonder if Laval had an undergraduate course in field goal accuracy among their 550 different programs? Throw in Saskatchewan linebacker Adam Auclair (career high 63 tackles last year), Alouettes Grey Cup-winning guard Philippe Gagnon and fullback Marco Dubois and the Rouge et Or has found a way to put difference makers from the Pacific to the St. Lawrence River.

Laval players taking part in the 2024 Combine: Defensive back Christophe Beaulieu, offensive lineman Nathaniel Dumoulin Duguay and receivers Frederik Antoine and Kevin Mital. 


I could list all the current CFLers who cut their teeth as a part of the University of Calgary but for this I’m going to focus on the maulers up front. If you’re looking for an offensive lineman to protect your passer or seal a lane for your running back, may I recommend a recent graduate from this University?

Sukh Chungh (BC Lions), Darius Ciraco (Toronto) and Sean McEwen (Calgary) have garnered a total of seven All-Star team awards between them with many more honours still ahead for this trio of talented linemen. Don’t worry, Alouettes fans I shall not forget about the 2023 Grey Cup Most Valuable Canadian, receiver Tyson Philpot.

Calgary player taking part in the 2024 Combine: Offensive lineman John Bosse.


Marc-Antoine Dequoy starred with the Montreal Carabins and is now doing the same for the Grey Cup champion Alouettes (Daniel Crump/

The obvious star on this list is BC Lions’ defensive end David Ménard. In his seven seasons Ménard has made the 2021 All-Star team and was the East Division’s Most Outstanding Canadian leading the East in sacks. His individual achievements are especially noteworthy considering Ménard only started one game in the COVID-shortened 2021 season. Two years later Ménard would set a new career high with nine sacks. That’s not bad for a player selected in the fourth round of the 2014 Draft.

The 2023 Grey Cup Champion Alouettes had four players from some of those famed Carabins teams including 2023 CFL All-Star Marc-Antoine Dequoy who has collected nine interceptions over the last two years. One player who was not on Tim Hortons Field that night was lineman Pier-Olivier Lestage, who started 17 of 18 games this past year, with a knee injury keeping him out of the big game. It was a tough break for the team’s nominee for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman Award.

Montreal players taking part in the 2024 Combine: defensive back Caylyn St-Cyr and tight end/fullback Paul-Antoine Ouellette. 

Before I end just watch this: Jesse Lumsden would be an automatic 1,000 yard player if healthy in 2024!!

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