There have been 20 NFL players born in British Columbia, the far-west Canadian province that is far more well-known for its hockey team and ski slopes than as a home of professional football players.
There have been some, though, like former Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Chris Covington, who is currently a free agent. He was the only British Columbian in the NFL in 2019.
The last Steelers player to hail from B.C. was punter Mitch Berger, who suited up for the Black and Gold for one season, in 2008, winning Super Bowl XLIII with the team.
The next Steelers player from British Columbia will be wide receiver Chase Claypool, who the team made its top selection with the No. 49 overall pick in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft on Friday.
Claypool was the 11th wide receiver chosen in the draft, which is a long way from when he was rated as the No. 33 wide receiver in the 2014 college football recruiting class coming out of Abbotsford High School in Abbotsford, British Columbia.
Abbotsford is a city of over 140,000 people, just a few miles from the United States border. But like the rest of Canada, it’s still much more well-known for hockey than football. Ten players have been drafted into the NHL out of Abbotsford, including former Pittsburgh Penguins center Derek Grant. Claypool is the first to be drafted into the NFL.
But despite that, he said that football has been his passion his entire life, Claypool said after being drafted by the Steelers.
“It is something that I always played my entire life,” Claypool said. “Basketball is something that I picked up later on in life. I certainly had an interest in basketball, especially when I was getting better. No matter how many times I picked up basketball as a hobby, I always gravitated back to football. And that is something I couldn’t say for anything else. Football was just home for me. It was my comfort zone. It was kind of a guy feeling that football was the sport for me.”
He said he had plenty of support for that goal back in British Columbia, despite it not being known as a football hotbed.
“We take football pretty seriously,” he said. “A lot of people I am surrounded with are pretty avid football people, so I kind of grew up with it my whole life. I grew up a CFL fan, but I always watched the NFL. I was more fans of players than anything just because we didn’t have our own team.”
Despite that, being a professional football player was not something at the top of Claypool’s mind when he was entering his final years of high school.
“I just threw my highlights on Facebook just because it was something I wanted to do for friends and family to see,” he said. “Not really any attention for any recruiting purposes. But the right people saw. … They wanted to see me compete against competition in the states, so I did the camp circuit, went to a bunch of different camps. Went to Notre Dame’s camp during the summer. Ultimately, it led me there in a roundabout way. It was pretty cool to get that opportunity when it was something I least expected.”
Even once he got to Notre Dame, it wasn’t smooth sailing for Claypool’s future. Entering a deep group of wide receivers that include current NFLers Equanimeous St. Brown, Miles Boykin and Will Fuller, Claypool had to wait his turn, playing on special teams until he became a more prominent part of the Irish offense as an upperclasman.
“You can say I am a late bloomer in the sense that I never really had my time to shine until my junior and senior year,” Claypool said. “I always thought I had the skill set. It just thought it improved year after year. I definitely broke out my senior year, but I thought I always possessed the skillset.”