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Stamps coach not surprised to see so many Canadians thriving in NCAA

It might seem like it came out of nowhere, but it’s no surprise to Calgary Stampeders linebackers coach Dwayne Cameron that so many young Canadians are making a major impact in NCAA football this year.

Cameron knows Canadian football as well as anybody, having worked both as a coach with the Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks and as a regional scouting consultant for the Stamps since 2016.

He has had a front-row seat watching and evaluating young Canadian football players for years and says the quality of talent has been on the upswing for the better part of the last decade and a half.

“Even if I were to go back (15 years), the level of talent increase and the level of coaching that’s gone on in that 15-year span has improved significantly, on both ends,” Cameron said. “At the same time, U.S. schools are more open in every sport to expand their recruiting borders almost globally at this point. In Canada, you’ve got a huge untapped resource of significant athletes.”

It’s been striking to see how many Canadians have been excelling at major U.S. programs in 2020, all while B.C.’s Chase Claypool has emerged as a legitimate threat as a rookie receiver with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Receiver John Metchie – brother to Stampeders safety Royce Metchie – has emerged as a star at Alabama. Corner Alonzo Addae is turning heads at West Virginia. Josh Palmer’s season catching the football at Tennessee has him in line for an NFL look.

At Oklahoma State, running back Chuba Hubbard is putting together another big season, while Calgary’s own Amen Ogbongbemiga is solidifying his NFL draft position at linebacker.

At Ole Miss, former University of Calgary Dinos corner Deane Leonard and linebacker Tavius Robinson, from the University of Guelph, are both making names for themselves.

There’s more, too. There has never been a time when this many Canadians were playing – and thriving – at major Div. 1 programs south of the border.

“It’s a couple things. It’s the willingness of (American) schools to expand their recruiting to beyond their borders, but there’s also been a significant increase in the quality of the athlete and the level of coaching those kids are getting at younger ages,” Cameron said.

The improvement in coaching has been a big part of the rapid improvement. Part of that is technology has made it easier for coaches in Canada to access resources. Even things like YouTube videos can be useful tools for coaching and training young players, Cameron said.

And while the NCAA players are the ones currently getting all the headlines, Cameron believes that the improvements in youth football are just as apparent at the U Sports level.

Unfortunately, there isn’t any university football being played in Canada this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Cameron points to the speed with which U Sports players are adapting to the CFL game in recent years as proof of the improvement.

“There’s a lot of these young men that, had they grown up geographically in a different place, they would have been Div. 1 college football players but because they happened to grow up (in Canada) they didn’t receive that exposure,” Cameron said. “It’s a little frustrating to me that we don’t have an appreciation of what we have here.

“It’s not until a Chase Claypool goes to Notre Dame that all of a sudden everybody is claiming Chase Claypool in Canada. Well, Chase Claypool was here before he went to Notre Dame. Had he gone to UBC or Calgary, would we have had that excitement for Chase Claypool?”

Cameron also believes that 2020 is just the tip of the iceberg and can’t help but wonder how seeing so many Canadians excelling will inspire the next generation.

“In 10 to 12 years, it will be interesting to see what kind of impact this has,” Cameron said. “I almost liken it to the impact Vince Carter had on basketball in Canada. You have Chase Claypool, Metchie is definitely going to get an opportunity, Josh Palmer is probably going to be an NFL opportunity guy … A lot of these guys may ultimately play in the CFL, but initially they’re going to get NFL opportunities.

“How does that inspire six, seven or eight-year-old kids coming up in sport when they decide what direction they want to go? Do they now see football as a viable route to get where they want to go?”