When May 6’s CFL Draft rolled around, Wilfrid Laurier University prospects Isaac Dell and Alex Anthony were in the comfort of their hometowns, surrounded by family and friends. It had been a long-time coming since Dell and Anthony stepped on the field at TD Waterhouse Stadium in London for the East West Bowl last year, an opportunity for CFL scouts to see the up-and-coming prospects. Since then, phone calls poured in from different teams with questions and potential interest.
But when full back Dell saw his name pop up 37th overall to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and receiver Anthony was drafted two picks later to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, it didn’t seem real.
“Honestly, it hasn’t completely sunk in yet,” Anthony said from his home in Victoria, B.C. “It still seems pretty surreal, but I know once I go to Saskatchewan at the end of the month it’ll all feel real and everything’s just exciting right now. I’m just so excited to see what happens.”
“I don’t know at what point it will [set in], probably at training camp,” Dell said from Niagara Falls, Ont. “It is exciting, but hasn’t quite hit home yet.”
In the fifth round of Monday’s draft, Dell was selected first by the Tiger-Cats. 30 seconds after his name was called, the Roughriders selected Waterloo Warrior’s offensive lineman Matt Vonk. Following Vonk, the Roughriders also selected Anthony.
“I think it’s going to be pretty cool because Hamilton is in such a transition,” Dell said. “It’s going to be a familiar area but a new experience at the same time. And next year when the stadium’s done, hopefully I’m still on the team and it’s going to be a new program, brand new head coach, and I’m really excited to be part of that transition.”
Laurier head coach Michael Faulds also expressed his congratulations for his veteran players.
“First off, I’m definitely happy for both of them,” he said. “I know they’ve worked extremely hard over their four-year career at Laurier and all of the hard extra sessions in the weight room and spring training and all of that has definitely paid off.”
Faulds said he texted both Anthony and Dell the morning of the draft wishing them luck and kept track of where his players ended up.
“I know they were glued to their TV screens anxiously waiting for their names to be called,” he laughed.
According to Anthony, each player signs a contract to be eligible to participate at the camp, at which time one of three things can happen.
“You can make the final roster at the end of training camp and they honour that contract, or they can ask you to stay on the practice roster, so you practice everyday with the team but you don’t play,” Anthony explained.
“Or they can release you and send you back for your fifth year of university and own your rights so you come back the following year.”
Both Dell and Anthony said they are unsure of what they will do if they are released, but are keeping an open mind to returning to Laurier if the situation calls for it.
“It’s a tough question to answer, because it depends on so many variables,” Dell said. “I think having that fifth year of eligibility and the fact that I still have to finish up a few classes, I think I’d be pretty likely to come back. That being said, you can kind of finish school whenever, you can’t necessarily play football for too long.
“I think I’d be more likely to come back, but it’s not a definite yes.”
“It’d be nice to come back and use my last year of eligibility, so I kind of just have to see what happens with training camp. The goal right now is to make that final 43-man roster at the end of camp,” Anthony echoed.
As for Faulds, he said he’d welcome both veterans back with open arms.
“As a coach, you wish the best that they get drafted and do really well, but selfishly you want them back,” he said.
“Not only what they do on the field, but they’re natural leaders. Especially since my transition in January, they’ve made my job a lot easier with how respectful they are and they listen to everything I say, they’ve led their younger teammates.
“Two very positive guys, and if they don’t quite make the cut, we’ll definitely be happy to have them back.”