INDIANAPOLIS — When someone thinks about Canada and sports there are a few candidates. For one, Canada is the spiritual capital of hockey. Then, lacrosse is the national sport and Canadians are diehards for it. Perhaps, even basketball with their beloved Toronto Raptors and a growing NBA pipeline.
However, football was never an essential part of that national equation. While the Canadian Football League (CFL) has made inroads in Canada, it was still not enough to raise Canada’s youth to international prominence. Seldomly would an elite football talent ever be Canadian and come out of the north.
However, something has changed in the water in recent years. There are now Canadian football players being recruited to high-level FBS schools. Then, many of those same players end up heading to the NFL. There is something that is happening up in the Great White North. It is not just Ontario, either. Players are coming from Ontario, Quebec, Edmonton, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. The revolution of Canadian football talent is a national movement in Canada.
While some of this Canadian talent started to creep in during the mid-2010s, it hit a fever pitch pace starting the 2020 season. Led by Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool out of Vancouver in British Columbia, Claypool lit up the NFL in 2020 as a rookie. As the Steelers’ complement to JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson, Claypool put up nine touchdowns on 873 yards. If it was any proof to the other Canadians playing at the FBS level, it was that they too could make the leap to the NFL. They belonged with the best.
“100% percent, he showed us the way,” Alabama receiver and NFL Draft prospect John Metchie said. “I say that confidently because I know how much work I put into it and how much preparation I put into it and the tremendous amount of talent of kids in Canada in all sports and football.”
Claypool may have been the one to spark the revolution among a Canadian contingent that is close. Due to there being so few of them, almost all of the Canadian players are close to one another. Claypool may have kicked off the big bang if you will. In 2021, Chuba Hubbard, Jevon Holland, Benjamin St-Juste, Alaric Jackson, and Amen Ogbongbemiga all made it to the NFL. There are even more players coming down the Canadian pipeline in the 2022 NFL Draft. Metchie is one of those standouts.
However, so is Penn State edge rusher Jesse Luketa. With both he and Metchie coming out in the same year, the shared experience between the two is of commonality. Luketa hails from Ottawa. Metchie hails from Toronto. Those two cities are about four and a half hours apart. Still, these two have managed to keep a network together. Similarly, they both are close with Claypool. The entire network spans from coast to coast in Canada. Otherwise, these players would have little guidance without each other.
“Me and Metchie, we grew up together playing for Team Ontario,” Luketa said. “We had the privilege of competing together at AT&T stadium. It was surreal.”
It goes deeper than just those two having a relationship with one another, however. Luketa leaned upon his family and fellow players to get to where he is today. With a lack of infrastructure planned for Canadian football players, Luketa and others needed as many supporters as they could get.
“I wouldn’t be here without my village of supporters,” Luketa said. “I’m extremely grateful for that. My coaches, all the family members who played a part in the journey to allow me to where I am today.”
The village of supporters is not just limited to family for Luketa and other Canadian players. The coaches in Canada and the players all use each other as support. It is a certain brotherhood that brews throughout Canada to allow these guys to get to the next level. Across all the planes of which they spread out, they keep in contact to allow their growth together. These connections are the spark in the revolution of football in Canada.
“We’re everywhere,” Luketa said. “The talent in Canada, it’s untapped. For us, just being in this position and being able to shine that light on talent back home, it’s everything for us. It’s always been bigger than us. There’s so much talent in Canada, but they’re not given the same opportunities, the same playing field.”
As they all try to take the league by storm and become superstars, there friendships become more important than ever. These players work out together back in Canada, and push each other to new heights in the offseason. Without this very network, players like Metchie and Luketa may not be where they are right now.
“There are guys like Josh Palmer, Chuba Hubbard, Chase Claypool, we are all tight-knit,” Luketa said. “We have to motivate each other with every opportunity we get. It’s a brotherhood.”
Luketa is not just about the support, though. He is throwing out guarantees. He promises this is not the end of the Canadian revolution to the NFL. Even though they are from Canada, Luketa emphasizes that Canadian-born football players are coming to take the NFL by storm.
“Yes, we’re Canadian,” Luketa said. “But we’re coming here to take the NFL by storm. We are changing the stigma, that’s it.”
Canada’s revolution only continues to grow into the NFL. As this brotherhood continues to grow, more and more players are coming out of the Great White North. Even if it is not a national pastime for the Canadians, there is a group of football lifers that is carrying out a revolution directly to the NFL.