March 13, 2024

Combine Ready: 3 things to know about Ajou Ajou

Photo courtesy of South Florida Athletics

Ajou Ajou knows what you’re thinking.

Three schools in four years. A college career of upheaval and restarts. Ajou heads into the CFL Combine presented by New Era surrounded by question marks. Don’t be surprised, though if the talented and affable receiver breaks through them all to make some plays and turn some heads when he gets to Winnipeg.

“I am one of the most resilient people in this world,” he said this week over the phone from Calgary — close to his hometown of Brooks, Alta. —  where he’s been since January, training for the combine.

“No matter what happens to me, I’ll bounce back real quick,” he said.

For all of the question marks around him, Ajou could be a strong candidate to prove himself on the field and to raise his draft stock at the Combine. The 17th-ranked prospect in the winter edition of the CFL’s Scouting Bureau is determined to take the next step in his football career.

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Introduction to football: one smelly older brother 

Ajou grew up in Brooks, a southern Alberta city in between Calgary and Medicine Hat, with a population of just over 14,000. Ajou describes it as an isolated place to grow up, where kids are drawn into sports at an early age. That worked well for him.

His introduction to football came when he was in the second grade, when his older brother came home a little worse for wear after a practice.

“My older brother came home from practice one day and he stunk so bad,” Ajou said. “I was like, ‘Bro, what’s up with you?’ He said, ‘I play football now.’ I asked him what that was and he said, ‘Come to the school tomorrow and I’ll sign you up for peewee’ and boom, the rest is history.”

As he grew up, Ajou roamed all over the field learning the game. He started off as a running back, then moved to linebacker before jumping over to slotback. By the ninth grade he was a quarterback and in the 10th grade he was playing receiver and some free safety. He loved it and still gets joy out of being anywhere on a football field.

Keep it moving

Ajou had a strong start to his NCAA career at Clemson in 2020, where he spent two seasons under coach Dabo Swinney (David Platt/Clemson)

Ajou’s drive to play at a higher level pulled him out of southern Alberta at an early age. When he was in grade 10, he moved north to Edmonton’s Harry Ainlay High School and over the next year and a half played well enough for the Titans that he caught the eyes of Clearwater Academy in Florida. After spending his senior year of high school in the States, he committed to play for the Clemson Tigers.

At Clemson, Ajou pulled in eight receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown in 22 games between 2021-2022. After the 2022 season, he transferred to South Florida but only got into the team’s season-opener in 2023 before injuries derailed his season. For the 2023 season, Ajou moved to Garden City Community College in Kansas, where he played in seven games and had 17 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns.

“It’s been super, super educational,” Ajou said of the last four years. “I learned a lot at each school I went to. The ins and outs of the game, not just physically but mentally. Clemson taught me a lot, USF taught me a lot as well. It was a great experience. I definitely needed that for my career, it elevated it.”

Moving can be difficult, but it teaches people adaptability. That’s something that can bode well for someone at the start of a pro football career.

“Just always having that opportunity to prove yourself,” Ajou said, “and show everyone else (it’s a) new team, but it’s still the same mission.”

Catch him at the Combine 

For someone that’s had his athleticism lauded since he was a preteen and has shown flashes of brilliance on the field at the college level, the Combine could be the perfect proving ground for Ajou.

At six-foot-three and 210 pounds in his season at Garden City, Ajou has great size for a receiver. He should test extremely well and could be heading into an ideal environment to let his abilities do all of the talking for him in front of CFL scouts, coaches and general managers.

“They can expect me to bring my A-game every time, man,” he said. “The coach will have to tell me, ‘Yo, yo Ajou slow down.’ I’m always 100 per cent. If I’m making a mistake I make it at 100 per cent, full-speed. I just want to win.”

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