2017 CFL draft ends long, pa­tient wait for Bladek

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY DAN RALPH

The 2017 CFL draft can’t come fast enough for Dar­iusz Bladek.

The six-foot-four, 306-pound Bethune-Cook­man Univer­sity of­fen­sive line­man is ex­pected to be an early pick Sunday night. When Bladek’s name is called, it’ll cap a long, of­ten frus­trat­ing jour­ney to a pro foot­ball ca­reer in Canada.

“It has been a long time com­ing,” Bladek, 23, said via tele­phone from Florida. “I’m ex­cited about it . . . This is what I’ve been dream­ing about, think­ing about ev­ery hour, ev­ery minute.

“Any team that be­lieves enough in me to se­lect me is go­ing to get my full-fledged ded­i­ca­tion. No mat­ter what pick that is, I’ll be seen as a pri­or­ity and that means a lot . . . when­ever you’re made a pri­or­ity, that’s a really good sign.”

Win­nipeg has three of the open­ing 15 picks, in­clud­ing the first- and sixth-over­all se­lec­tions. After Saskatchewan goes at No. 2, B.C. will make the first of its two first-round choices at No. 3 be­fore fol­low­ing Hamilton, Ed­mon­ton and Blue Bombers at No. 7. Cal­gary and Grey Cupcham­pion Ot­tawa com­plete the round.

Be­com­ing draft el­i­gi­ble really tested Bladek’s pa­tience and per­se­ver­ance.

Bladek was born in Florida to a Cana­dian mother. He di­vulged his roots dur­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with the Stam­ped­ers, prompt­ing them to say if Bladek ac­quired dual ci­ti­zen­ship he could play in Canada as a na­tional.

Amer­i­cans play in the CFL but clubs covet Cana­dian of­fen­sive line­men. Many start at least three and some of the top per­form­ers earn over $200,000 an­nu­ally.

Bladek skipped his se­nior col­lege sea­son for the ‘16 NFL draft. After be­ing by­passed, he at­tended the Bal­ti­more Ravens mini-camp but didn’t re­ceive a con­tract so Bladek be­gan the dual ci­ti­zen­ship process.

How­ever it was a lengthy af­fair, re­sult­ing in Bladek miss­ing both the 2016 CFL draft and sup­ple­men­tal draft. The pa­per­work was fi­nally com­pleted in time for Bladek to par­tic­i­pate in the league’s com­bine in Regina in March. He per­formed well enough there to fin­ish 10th on the CFL scout­ing bureau’s fi­nal top-20 prospects list last month for the ‘17 draft, an im­prove­ment of five spots.

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