Tyrell Richards is precariously close to realizing his childhood dream.
Richards, of Brampton, Ont., fondly remembers a pro football career being on his radar as early as Grade 3. On Tuesday night, the former Syracuse linebacker is expected to hear his name called early in the '22 CFL draft.
"It's definitely starting to hit me a bit more now that we're getting closer to that time," Richards said Monday. "I'm starting to get a little excited but at the same time, whatever happens, happens."
Richards finished No. 3 on the CFL scouting bureau's final list of the top-20 prospects for the '22 draft behind Alabama receiver John Metchie III and Penn State linebacker Jesse Luketa. Both Metchie (second round, Houston Texans) and Luketa (seventh round, Arizona Cardinals) were selected in last weekend's NFL draft.
Edmonton currently owns the No. 1 pick. And if the Elks keep the selection, they're expected to use it on the six-foot-three 232-pound Richards.
"I'm just letting whatever happens, happen," Richards said. "If I do go first it will be a blessing … I just want to be able to go out there and play football again."
Later on Monday night, Edmonton also secured the eighth overall pick from Hamilton. The Elks sent offensive lineman Kyle Saxelid, linebacker Grant McDonald — both Canadians — and the No. 2 selection in the '22 global draft to the Tiger-Cats for the eighth and 28 selections in the CFL draft and the ninth pick in the global draft.
"Any time you move your first pick in the draft, you’re looking for significant value in return," said Drew Allemang, Hamilton's assistant GM and director of Canadian scouting. "And I believe we achieved that with both players as well as the global draft pick."
The six-foot-eight, 301-pound Saxelid started 16-of-27 games over two seasons with Edmonton, seeing action at both tackle positions and guard. McDonald had 16 special-teams tackles in 14 games last season after being taken in the second round, No. 14 overall, by the Elks in the '21 CFL draft out of the University of Calgary.
Richards had a career-high 24 tackles (3.5 for a loss) and two sacks in eight games (three starts) for Syracuse University in 2020. He entered the transfer portal afterwards and entertained several offers but couldn't move to another school because he'd not accumulated enough transferable credits.
Richards considered attending a junior college before deciding to spend '21 training and coaching at Clarkson Secondary School, his former high school in Mississauga, Ont. Richards had 54 tackles (9.5 for a loss) and six sacks in 31 career games at Syracuse.
Richards attended the CFL combine in March and performed well, posting a 37-inch vertical jump, 19 reps in the 225-pound bench press and running the 40-yard dash in 4.60 seconds. He also impressed with his versatility, testing with defensive lineman and working out with defensive backs while meeting and speaking with officials from all nine Canadian teams.
"I think I went in and did what I set out to do," Richards said.
There's certainly an element of intrigue heading into the draft. Chris Jones, Edmonton's head coach/GM, said last week he'd entertain offers for the top pick.
"There's going to be some very good players that we could potentially choose from," he said. "To give that up, it's going to have to be something pretty good.
"Tyrell is a great player. He should be an immediate four-teamer for you so with those things being mentioned again, he's certainly a solid option."
And then there's the matter of the B.C. Lions looking at how to possibly land both Jalen and Tyson Philpot, twin receivers at the University of Calgary. They have the third pick but aren't scheduled to select again until the second round (No. 12 overall).
The Ottawa Redblacks currently have the No. 2 selection.
In 1999, Vancouver Canucks GM Brian Burke held the third overall pick in the NHL draft but pulled off a series of moves that allowed him to take twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
The Montreal Alouettes are scheduled to select fourth overall. The remainder of the first round, in order, is: Calgary Stampeders, Toronto Argonauts, Saskatchewan Roughriders, Edmonton and the Grey Cup-champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Seventy-four players will be taken over eight rounds.
Two other intriguing prospects are Waterloo Warriors twins Tre and Tyrell Ford. Quarterback Tre Ford was Canadian university football's top player last season while Tyrell Ford has been a standout defensive back with the program.
In March, Tyrell Ford posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.44 seconds and 36.5-inch vertical jump at the University of Buffalo pro day. Tre Ford also participated, finishing the 40-yard event in 4.45 seconds with a 36-inch vertical jump.
The Fords also participated in the CFL combine, with Tyrell Ford posting the best 40-yard dash time (4.42 seconds). Tre Ford didn't run the 40 but was very solid in passing drills.
"I went to see him (Tre Ford) in Buffalo and quite honestly he and his brother were the best players in that entire pro day," Jones said. "Following up that week with the CFL combine, I thought they both interviewed extremely well and I thought (Tre) threw the ball well and again you know what kind of athlete he is."
Also on Tuesday, the CFL will hold its global draft, where 27 players will be selected over three rounds. Among those eligible is Kingsley Jonathan, a six-foot-four, 260-pound defensive lineman from Nigeria who suited up with Richards at Syracuse.
"He's a great player and hard worker," Richards said of Jonathan. "It would be really cool (if two former Syracuse players are drafted Tuesday)."
Jonathan, 24, recorded 101 tackles (60 solo, 21.5 for loss) in 56 career games with the Orange. He also had 15 sacks, three forced fumbles and two recoveries.
After being bypassed in last weekend's NFL draft, Jonathan agreed to terms with the Buffalo Bills.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 2, 2022.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press