For anyone doubting the calibre of football talent produced by head coach Blake Nill and the University of Calgary Dinos, the 2012 Canadian Football League draft was proof for the contrary. For the past two years, no other university in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport league has produced more CFL draft picks than the U of C. In fact, half of all of the players drafted to the CFL from the Canada West conference were Dinos. This year, Kirby Fabien, Sam Hurl, Carson Rockhill and Jordan Verdone were selected in this year's draft -- all of them in the top 40. Fabien (first round: seventh- overall) and Verdone (fifth round: 37th overall) both joined the defending Grey Cup champions the B.C Lions. Hurl (second round: 12th overall) became Saskatchewan Roughrider property and Rockhill (second round: 13th overall) was selected by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
It is no secret that the CFL privileges Canadian talent on a roster. CFL rules dictate that on a 42-man roster, no more than 19 players can reside outside of Canada, therefore roughly half of the roster must be made up of Canadians.
Traditionally this has meant the more skilled positions -- receiver, running back or quarterback, for instance -- are normally occupied by imports. The Canadian game includes a yard of separation off the line of scrimmage Â-- speed is equally as important as size for linemen. However, if a team is able to dress a Canadian at a skilled position, this gives the team more leverage to dress imports at other positions like the offensive line or a kicker.
Largely a virtue of the population of the country, there is an enormous wealth of American football talent available to CFL teams. Canadians that are mandated to play must be equal to the task presented by the Americans they will be playing against -- in one case, a Canadian offensive lineman must be able to contain an American defensive tackle. At some positions, the Canadian game calls for a different type of player, a player that might not be suited for the American game. That is not to say that CFL players can't play in the NFL. There are many players that have transferred from the CFL to the NFL and had success -- most recently Brandon Browner and Cameron Wake, formerly of the Calgary Stampeders and B.C Lions respectively. Earlier this month, Wake signed a contract extension with the Miami Dolphins worth $49 million.
In recent years, there has been an emergence of Canadian talent at skilled positions in the CFL like receivers Chris Getzlaf, Paris Jackson and Andy Fantuz and running backs Jon Cornish and Jerome Messam.
For all these reasons, draft day in the CFL is an opportunity to either solidify a roster with blue-chip Canadian talent on the offensive or defensive line or to try to wrangle some of the elite Canadian talent to play a skilled position. The U of C has been able to produce both in spades over the last few years -- receivers Anthony Parker and Nathan Coehoorn, running back Matt Walter and linemen Paul Swiston and Mark Dewit, to name a few. In a press release Nill explained his theory for their success.
"This program has been able to recruit top athletes and develop them into outstanding football players," he said. "With the help of the school, the alumni and the great assistant coaches we have, it's a formula for success and you're seeing it in the draft."
The Canadian content in the CFL is absolutely essential to its continued prosperity -- the league has arguably never been stronger than it currently is. The CIS continues to be an excellent method for Canadian talent to find its way into the league. With the continued success of CIS athletes in the CFL, there is no sign that the relationship will change anytime soon.