The University of Calgary Dinos football program is continuing to reap the rewards of another Hardy Cup championship season, and this time it’s not just the Canadian Football League that’s taking notice.
Five Dinos players were selected in the 2013 CFL draft on May 6, headlined by defensive lineman Linden Gaydosh who was selected first overall by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. However the Tiger-Cats may not get a chance to see their prized pick play in Hamilton this year. Gaydosh was signed by the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League on May 12 after attending their mini-camp and will not report to training camp in Hamilton this spring.
The last Dino to be signed by an NFL team was Dan Federkeil, who was signed by the Indianapolis Colts in 2006 and played offensive lineman for four years.
Gaydosh was a top-ranked prospect for this year’s draft. While other CFL teams steered clear of players that could possibly sign in the NFL, the Tiger-Cats decided to take the risk.
“You knew he would be up there [in the draft] from the beginning,” said Dinos football head coach Blake Nill. “He was going to be a CFL player, maybe even an NFL player.”
Gaydosh shared the spotlight on draft day with teammates Mike Edem and Steven Lumbala, who were both selected by the Montreal Alouettes as the third and fifth picks overall respectively. The three Dinos were the first three Canadian Interuniversity Sport players selected in the draft.
Such a strong showing at the draft is not uncommon for the Dinos, who saw four players get drafted last year and six selected in 2011. Dinos alumni, who have helped the team win the last five Canada West titles, continue to be drafted early and often in the CFL draft.
Gaydosh is the third Dino to ever go first overall in the CFL draft. The Peace River, Alberta native follows in the footsteps of his defensive line coach Kent Warnock, who was selected first overall by the Calgary Stampeders in 1986. Gaydosh, who won CIS rookie of the year in 2009, was the centre-piece of the Dinos’s top-ranked defence this year.
Also anchoring the Dinos’s defence this year was Edem, who lead Canada West with 55 tackles in 2012, an incredible feat considering it was his first season playing linebacker after playing defensive back in previous seasons. Edem not only successfully changed positions, but impressed his coaches with his transformation as a player and a person.
“He came here with a bad rep as a troublemaker,” said Nill, who expects Edem to get special teams time with the Alouettes this year. “But since he’s come here he has done everything correct, on the field and scholastically.”
Lumbala was the only Dinos offensive player to be drafted this year and went fifth overall despite seeing his draft value drop since the beginning of the season. The running back finished his university career as eighth on the Dinos all-time rushing list. Lumbala was optimistic about his ability to transition to a professional game that is traditionally dominated by American imports.
“I think this is a perfect time for running backs from across the country to come in the league,” said Lumbala in a press release. “I’ve always thought that no matter if you’re Canadian or American, that shouldn’t affect your ability to play your position.”
Joining Edem and Lumbala in Montreal will be defensive lineman Michael Klassen, who was drafted in the fourth round. The final Dino to be selected was linebacker Thomas Spoletini. The Saskatchewan Roughriders selected him with their sixth-round pick.
While the Dinos are thrilled to see their graduates have a chance at playing professional football, the focus now shifts to moving on next year without their help.
“When you lose five kids a year to the CFL, it’s difficult to fill the void,” said Nill. “But it’s absolutely a good thing. It’s shows we’re doing a lot of things right.”