Calgary Herald

Canadian suits up in AAF opener

Saskatoon lineman determined to get back to the NFL

- DAN BARNES

Saskatoon’s Brett Boyko, a six-foot-seven, 312-pound specimen, has been a profession­al football player for four years.

On Saturday night in San Antonio, Tex., the 26-year-old offensive lineman doubled the number of regular season games he has dressed for as a pro.

From one to two.

“I feel like I’ve been put through the ringer a couple times,” he said, while all around him San Diego Fleet teammates, many of whom surely share the gist of his story, gathered themselves after a season-opening 15-6 loss to the San Antonio Commanders.

What sets him apart in the room, and this new league, is his birthplace. He was the only Canadian among the 86 players who suited up for the first Alliance of American Football tilt at the Alamodome.

And before he signed a threeyear, non-guaranteed deal worth US$250,000 in early December, he came close to joining the B.C. Lions, who drafted him 14th overall in 2015.

“I think I was. I really do. But how this last year transpired with me — I tore my calf two days before training camp — so not having a full go at it one last time kind of made my decision for me.

“Had I gone through camp and gave my all I really feel I would have been on the Chargers, or maybe somewhere else. Obviously that didn’t happen but I think that was the point for me, I gotta get back and do it again.”

He has chased the NFL dream since 2015, when he signed with Philadelph­ia as an undrafted free agent, after going through the NFL combine.

He was among the last cuts in September 2015 and was on the practice roster but was released in May 2016. He signed with the Chargers in June but was released in September and was days away from signing with B.C. when the Chargers invited him back.

“I told my agent it was a done deal, I was going to sign (with B.C.) that Tuesday. That Sunday the Chargers called me. That’s how close it was.”

He rejoined the Chargers’ practice squad on Oct. 4, 2016, signed a reserve/future contract in January 2017, was waived in September, signed to the practice squad a day later, promoted to the active roster Dec. 19 and played in his first NFL regular season game, a win over the New York Jets on Dec. 24, was waived Dec. 29, and signed to a reserve/future contract Jan. 1, 2018.

He was waived in September after reaching an injury settlement and waited for another call until Dec. 2, when he signed the AAF deal.

“Me and my agency, we had our mind set on the NFL, so I wasn’t really aware of (the AAF) but obviously jumped at the opportunit­y. You get paid pretty well and it still gives you an opportunit­y to go play in the NFL, so absolutely you can make it work.”

Through the entire NFL odyssey he has learned to go with the flow.

“Sometimes it wears on me a bit. That’s the nice thing about this. It’s a three-year deal with the potential to get back (to the NFL).

“So I kind of have a home for a little bit, which is nice.

“I’m incredibly happy. You can never say you’re done developing as a player. I know I have a ton of work to do and I’m excited to be getting the opportunit­y.”

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Brett Boyko

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