It appears the state of Canadian football has never been better and look no further than the number of Canadian-born players starring at skills positions in the CFL, and Canada's win over the U.S. at the IFAF U19 world championship over the weekend as proof.
While the CFL undoubtedly has work to do in terms of infusing the league with more Canadian talent at quarterback, a recent report released by Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) indicates that the CFL has taken a leap forward with the number of Canadian players at other positions, who happen to have played their university careers in Canada as well.
According to the report a record 145 CIS graduates were listed on CFL rosters to begin the 2012 season, 116 of which were considered to be on active rosters.
"One of the big things is coaching has really improved. There are more coaches on staff, there are more full-time coaches involved in the schools and that goes a long way," said Drew Allemang, coordinator of Canadian player development & head Canadian scout for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. "The CIS players are having better access to strength coaches who are becoming part of the athletics departments and the the schools themselves, their facilities for training have really improved so that's really helping progress the CIS football athlete.
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"Another really big one is the CIS East-West Bowl, it's an All-Star game for players that are about to go into their draft year typically and having all those top players in one environment really progresses those players that are there. They are exposed to the top CIS coaches that are there coaching them and there are CFL coaches there [as well] … All those top athletes competing against one another really helps those players improve."
TiCats wide receiver and University of Western Ontario [now Western University] graduate Andy Fantuz is perhaps the biggest name on the list released by the CIS as the 28-year-old, now into his seventh CFL season has collected more than 4,000 receiving yards and was named the most outstanding Canadian in the CFL in 2010. He returned to the CFL towards the end of the 2011 season after spending much of the year pursuing a roster spot with the Chicago Bears in the NFL.
Allemang agrees that Fantuz may be one of the biggest names to come out of Canada, but someone like TiCats receiver Dave Stala is another experienced CFL receiver who played his university career in Canada (with Saint Mary's University) and has made a long career for himself in Canadian football. Toronto Argonauts slot back/running back Andre Durie and B.C. Lions running back Andrew Harris are others. Durie played university ball at York and currently sits third in the CFL in receiving yards this season and Harris, currently the league leader in rushing, played at Vancouver Island University.
However, though the numbers and names speak to progress in development of Canadian talent in Canada, there's no denying that the league's top talents were either born in the United States or attended to American schools. Geroy Simon, now the all-time leader in CFL receiving yards after catching for 105 yards to open the 2012 season went to school at Maryland and was born in Johnstown, PA., and Anthony Calvillo, the CFL all-time leader in passing yards was born in Los Angeles, CA., and went to school at Utah State.
Allemang believes that will eventually change, but it's not going to happen overnight.
"Some of the best players in our league are Canadian born players from the CIS so I think it's definitely happening. [There are] a lot of players you could put on a field with a bunch of U.S. players and you wouldn't be able to tell what there ratio is being import or non-import. That's definitely happening now, they don't have all the records, but there are definitely [Canadian] players who are making their mark and it's only going to get better from here on in."