Rookie DB Kerfalla Exumé making a splash on special teams
It is a storyline that was lost somewhat in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers season-opening victory in Vancouver last weekend. Among the juicy subplots that grabbed all the attention and dominated the headlines afterward:
Overlooked somewhat was this: rookie defensive back Kerfalla Exumé, who was making his Canadian Football League debut, finished with a game-high five special teams tackles. And when yours truly and other media members made note of it during the game last week on Twitter, there was a common reaction from Bombers fans:
Is that No. 41?
Yes, it would seem a few introductions are in order here…
Kerfalla Muhammad Exumé was the Bombers eighth-round pick, 70th overall, in the CFL Draft last month. Just to put that into perspective, just three names were called out after Exumé to round out the 2019 draft.
Still, when he finally heard his name called, the emotional moment was captured as Exumé celebrated with his former University of Montreal Carabins teammates.
“I was still training with the Carabins, even though I didn’t have any eligibility left,” explained Exumé in a chat with bluebombers.com this week. “The draft started during practice, but after they were done they came up to watch the end of it with me.
“That was pretty intense. I had some expectations because my special teams coach had said, ‘Don’t worry buddy, you’ll get drafted.’ So there was a lot of stress. But to have all the guys stay there with me to watch it… that was a nice feeling.”
Still, it’s one thing to be drafted, it’s quite another to go from an eighth rounder to not just making the team, but the opening night roster.
“When I came to camp all I wanted to do was make sure I made a good impression,” said Exumé. “I knew as a rookie I would have to make that impression on special teams. But there were also a lot of other rookies trying to do that same thing.
“I just tried to leave everything out there on the field and if I had to leave, I would do so with my head high. The dynamic with the guys and the coaches during camp was great. In the meeting room I really concentrated on what the coach was saying… once he gave corrections I tried to remember it and then the next day apply it right away so that they could see I was coachable and they could trust me.”
And to understand the significance of his five special teams tackle effort, consider this:
So, who is Kerfalla-Muhammad Exumé?
A soft-spoken and humble sort, he was born 25 years ago in Montreal to his Haitian-born parents. His father, Sonny, is a retired nurse; his mother, Emmanuella, is a teacher. He has two older brothers and an older sister – Bouba, Moussa and Sadiya – and he didn’t really start playing football until he was 17. He played a variety of sports growing up, primarily soccer and tennis, before turning to football.
“I grew up playing soccer with my older brothers, so I had to play physical to make up for it and be able to keep up,” said Exumé. “I liked the physicality but when I started playing receiver everything was hard. The route running was hard, catching was hard. But I went to every practice, even optional ones, and just tried to learn.”
That approach carried over to his college days, where former CFL’er Byron Archambault – now the special teams coordinator with the Carabins – stressed the importance of that aspect of the game. A receiver/returner before he arrived on campus, Exumé wanted to get on the field and volunteered to block for others.
That selflessness, plus his work ethic, is part of why the Bombers – seeking special teams candidates near the end of the draft – selected Exumé. It’s also why he was on the Bombers opening night roster and made such a sudden impact.
Finally, a scene from the end of the road trip to Vancouver last week…
There were the Bombers on the team bus to the airport early Sunday morning when Exumé walked past veterans Jake Thomas and Mike Miller.
“Five special-teams tackles… it’s all downhill from here,” cracked Thomas.
“Get ready for a ton of double-teams now,” added Miller with a grin.
“That was funny,” said Exumé. “But those guys also told me after the game to keep it up and that I’m going to get a lot of attention now with double teams. I know they were joking about it, but I will continue to bring the same intensity. I’ll always keep working hard. I have to if I want to keep my spot.”