For some, the path to a CFL career is simple: star in high school, earn a scholarship to a big CIS or NCAA school, excel there, earn an E-Camp invitation and get drafted. For others, like Guelph Gryphons' receiver Saxon Lindsey, there are more bumps in the road. Lindsey's path has been filled with obstacles, but he said those are worth crossing in pursuit of the dream of playing professional football.
"It's been a dream of mine since high school to play the sport I love and get paid for it," Lindsey said. "When I was in high school, I really wanted to play university football. Now I want to go to the next level."
Lindsey's university path wasn't a conventional one. He grew up in Markham, Ontario and then headed to Waterloo to start his CIS career with the Laurier Golden Hawks, but transferred to Guelph in 2010 and sat out that year before playing for the Gryphons in 2011.
"It's definitely a different road," he said. "I don't think a lot of people would have done what I did."
Despite the challenges posed by missing a year of competition, Lindsey said transferring to Guelph was the right move for him.
"Going to Guelph has been one of the best experiences of my life," he said. "I don't regret it at all."
Still, even his time with the Gryphons didn't go quite as smoothly as Lindsey might have liked. He hauled in 32 passes for 387 yards last season, but wasn't invited to the CFL's official E-Camp. Lindsey said it hurt not to pick up an invitation, as that had long been his target.
"That was my goal, to get to E-Camp," he said. "Obviously, I'm disappointed."
Lindsey hasn't given up on his dream, though, and he'll be attending TSN analyst Duane Forde's alternative E-Camp, which tries to showcase some of the Canadian talent passed over by the official combine. Lindsey said being passed over for the official E-Camp has only inspired him to work even harder to impress teams at Forde's camp.
"It didn't lower my focus at all," he said. "If anything, it motivated me even more."
Combine tests involve a lot of measurement, particularly of speed over short distances, jumping ability and power. Lindsey said in order to excel in those quantitative tests, he's worked with two trainers to simplify his typical workout routine and focus on improving his metrics.
"I usually come in and do five or six exercises during normal training," he said. "During this, I come in and do one or two and really focus."
He thinks his best quality isn't found with a stopwatch, though.
"My hands are definitely my best asset," Lindsey said. "I'm known for catching everything that comes my way."
Lindsey said he thinks Forde's camp is an excellent opportunity for guys like him who have flown below the E-Camp radar.
"There are definitely some players who don't have the normal role," he said. "They don't get as much recognition as others who are fortunate to be in a system that showcase their skills."
Lindsey said he loves Forde's concept of showcasing the depth of Canadian talent out there.
"I think it's a really good idea by Duane," he said. "I really appreciate what he's doing."
The camp carries a lot of pressure, as it can determine whether a player ever gets a CFL opportunity or not. Lindsey said he's excited to demonstrate that he deserves a shot, though.
"I'm very eager to get to the combine and show what I've been doing."