Quebec in the sights of the NFL

Benjamin St-Juste was drafted in the third round by Washington. Pier-Olivier Lestage and Bruno Labelle won a contract with the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals.

A historic weekend for Quebec football. It is already rare to see Canadian athletes attract the attention of American teams: three Quebecers in 24 hours is unheard of.

Danny Maciocia, general manager of the Montreal Alouettes, sees this as a sign that the sport is healthy in the province.

As we can see, more and more players can make a living after college playing either in the Canadian Football League or in the NFL.

Credit goes to the coaches of all programs in place across the province. He even believes that the phenomenon will gain momentum well before running out of steam.

There will be more in the next few years that will make their way to the next level.

A quote from:Danny Maciocia, General Manager of the Alouettes

Sasha Ghavami, Lestage and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif’s agent, talks about the future with the same enthusiasm.

It is phenomenal. This testifies to the quality of the work accomplished by the coaches in Quebec. I take my hat off to them.

What I find extraordinary about what happened over the weekend is that it shows the multitude of possible paths. Benjamin St-Juste played in the NCAA, he was drafted. Bruno Labelle also went to the United States, and he got a contract. Then, Pier-Oliver signed with a team after being trained in Quebec.

Lestage, an alumnus of the Carabins of the University of Montreal, thus further clears a path that has already been taken by some pioneers, such as Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.

Players drafted into the NFL from Canadian universities since 2010:

  • 2012: Akiem Hicks (Regina Rams)
  • 2014 : Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (of the McGill Redmen)
  • 2016: David Onyemata (Manitoba Bisons)

He’s starting to have a few, players from the Canadian network who manage to convince American teams, adds Ghavami. Some drafted, others who sign contracts. There was Anthony Auclair, Marc-André Dequoy, yes, but others also in the rest of Canada.

In the past, an exile south of the border was seen as a necessary step for young footballers in the province. Ghavami admits that there has been an evolution in this regard.

It is true that we hear less of this speech that the NCAA is a must he admits.

I have been doing this job since 2013. There are more teams interested in the Canadian product today than just a few years ago.

A quote from:Sasha Ghavami, Players’ Agent

NFL clubs can no longer afford to ignore talent from elsewhere. This partly explains this small revolution. But even if they take a closer look at the Canadian window, there still need to be some beautiful products!

And there are more and more good products. Macicoia, who recruited Lestage for the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu Giants, claims to have had calls from three teams about him.

The Giants called me, Arizona called me. He interested a lot of teams.

According to him, the big guy could surprise and quickly impose himself among professionals. I think he might even see some action, and be in uniform for a few seconds very soon.

A record four Canadians were drafted into the NFL in 2021

  • Benjamin St-Juste (Quebec)
  • Josh Palmer (Ontario)
  • Chuba Hubbard (Alberta)
  • Jevon Holland (British Columbia)

Also in 2014, four players were selected.

Is it too early to talk about a LDT effect?

Duvernay-Tardif is one of only three players from Canada to have been drafted by an NFL club in 11 years. Rather, almost all of the 250 or so prospects chosen each year have come out of American schools.

Has Ghavami noticed a greater curiosity of teams towards the Canadian basin, since the conquest of the Super Bowl by Duvernay-Tardif and the Chiefs in 2020?

If it is too early to affirm it, Ghavami admits at the very least that the story of Laurent Duvernay-Tardif marked the spirits among recruiters.

Success breeds success. When I am in discussion with the teams about young players, Laurent’s example often comes up. Now they know his background. They know where he came from.

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif runs during a match.

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif played with the Phénix at Collège André-Grasset before joining McGill University.

Photo: Courtesy Collège André-Grasset

The examples of Ghavami’s two protégés, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Pier-Olivier Lestage, could encourage hopes to continue their apprenticeship in Quebec, rather than going to the United States. But for the agent, the important thing is above all that young people have different options.

We are not in competition with the United States. What is needed is that young players can decide where they study, here or there, according to their preference, their field of study, their interests., he concludes.

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