Opinions & Features Workshop (Oct 26th)

Illustration by Yasmine Elsayed

Six Dino athletes selected in CFL draft

By Rodrigo Verney, May 20 2021—

The University of Calgary isn’t new to strong emotions this time of year as the Canadian Football League (CFL) draft announced new young Dinos’ talent for the amazing abilities they have displayed throughout their years of wearing the University of Calgary’s red and white jerseys. This year hasn’t been different as six new Dinos join the league.

Offensive Line Peter Nicastro was the first Dino on what would be a great night for the U of C, being picked in the first round as a 7th overall pick and the new addition to the Toronto Argonauts. Nicastro, coming out of Saint Francis High School in Calgary, also placed 25th in the Dinos’ all-time list.

Nicastro was only the first in a long line of Dinos to get chosen that evening. Linebacker Grant McDonald and Defensive Back Deane Leonard were both picked in the next round placing only four picks apart — in 14th and 18th, respectively. McDonald is a transfer student from the University of Maine and was chosen by the Edmonton Football Team. Leonard comes from Notre Dame High School here in Calgary. He was drafted by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Calgary had another three appearances in the draft. Linebacker Charlie Moore, from South Delta Secondary School, was selected in the third round as the 26th overall pick by the Calgary Stampeders. Offensive Line Logan Bandy, from the same High School as his partner in the offensive line, Peter Nicastro, appeared in the 5th round as the 38th overall pick for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Tyler Packer from Notre Dame High School also placed 51st overall pick in the 6th round for the British Columbia Lions. The U of C Dinos totaled six appearances in one draft which is an outstanding feat in itself, but impossible if it wasn’t for the amazing effort of all of the Dinos staff and players.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone as all six players are part of the still-reigning 2019 Vanier Cup champion team. This isn’t the single achievement they had, since five out of the six players have also earned Canada West All-Star status during their varsity career — with Logan Bandy and Deane Leonard becoming two-time All-Canadian players.

These young talents were important contributors to the continued success of the U of C football team over the past few years. That isn’t to say that many other pieces didn’t contribute to this success. However, these players have clearly shown how their talent has been on continued ascension ever since they got into the league.

As the Dinos’ Football Head Coach, Wayne Harris, stated “[These six players] were the nucleus of our championship program.” Every staff member and coach involved were very happy to see this year’s selections. Wayne said that they only lamented the team’s inability to play last year because of the pandemic.  

The U of C continues to raise a powerhouse of an offensive line as it has had eight Offensive Line players appear in the CFL draft since 2017. Harris went on to say that all three Offensive Line players that were chosen this year are the result of this long tradition of smart and focused training. To have such a history of picks is an illustrious achievement made possible by their mentality and perseverance through training and games alike. 

Canada West had 14 selections in total — an honour that reflects the level of competition in this conference. This isn’t to discredit the Dinos, as they were in the lead on draft day with the most players selected out of any program in the continent. These achievements seem to have been expected by the coaching staff as they went on to say that it didn’t come as a surprise that these six would be selected. The Dino’s coaching staff described the six chosen players as strong, smart and athletic people that have amazed them and fans alike. They also foresee a long and acclaimed career for the six Dinos selected by the CFL.

Sixty-three Dinos football players have been picked by the CFL since 2006 — the most from any school in North America. Since the beginning of the program, 159 Dinos have gone to play for the CFL. Out of these 159 players, 25 were selected in the first round, with the majority of these players being drafted by the Calgary Stampeders.

Fans can’t help but to speculate how these players will build their new legacy among their former college teammates. There is already an excitement brewing about how they will play against each other, as all of this year’s six drafts have been chosen by different teams. Many players describe the college scene as a lifetime experience and their college teammates as friends for life. Hence, fans are eager to understand how these players will use what they have learnt from their time together with new and improved major league tactics. The U of C’s future in football seems cemented on a long history of hard work and dedication. 

Even though draft night is an amazing opportunity, it marks only the beginning of their careers. These players will now tread waters that they haven’t been on before and will build stories and bonds many consider to be unbreakable throughout their new career as a professional player. Regardless of their future in the league, the U of C and CFL fans know that to be drafted is a call for celebration and we wish both success and longevity to their careers.


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