This Sunday, when the Dallas Cowboys host the Pittsburgh Steelers we will witness history. Not only will we be able to see both of this year’s Canadian draft picks in both Chase Claypool and Neville Gallimore but suiting up for the Cowboys will be two professional athletes from the city of Ottawa, the 613.
Following a trade between the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys which processed last week, the Cowboys will have both Ottawa natives Neville Gallimore and Eli Ankou in this week’s game. This is not only a huge milestone for them to be able to play together on such a high stage but also for the city of Ottawa and its football community. Both of these guys have worked so hard to get to this point of their football careers and for them to cross paths like this, its phenomenal to see.
Getting more into what it took for both Gallimore and Ankou to make it to the NFL, on November 7th 2020 the 3rd part of a 4 part documentary series will be released, featuring the storyline of a football player’s journey from Ottawa. It will have key names from Ottawa like Eli Ankou, Jesse Palmer, Alex Mateas, Sherrod Baltimore and many more. You will be able to see first hand how difficult it is to make it from Ottawa to the NFL or CFL stage, and looking back at the most of the guys that have made it to that level, youth football. Whether its NCAFA, OVFL or OPFL plays a large role in the growth of a football player from Ottawa.
“When I was drafted by the Giants. On draft night, I couldn’t stop thinking about my path to get to that moment. All those years I played back home whether it was with Nepean or Myers Riders they all were so crucial in my journey to the Florida Gators and to the NFL stage. I was just so thankful to have been put around such great people growing up.” Says Ottawa native and former NFL quarterback Jesse Palmer.
Similar to Palmer, many athletes in Ottawa are surrounded by great people. The community is all about success and seeing the growth of the football and the growth of these athletes only better the city, “As we started to see guys like Jesse Palmer and then later we saw Christo (Bilukidi) make it to the NFL, it all seemed reachable. It really topped it off when Eli (Ankou) went to the league because of how close that was to myself because I (AK Ismail) watched him play with my brother growing up. It really helped us with our goals and pushed us even further.” Commented University defensive back AK Ismail.
As guys like Jesse Palmer or more recently Neville Gallimore start to get more into the game of football, they try to do as much as they possibly can to get better so not only can they win games on the field but potentially get noticed as well. “I started playing football when I was in grade 5. It was a little later than the majority of guys so I was behind but when I saw my potential and that this could be my ‘way out’ I was starting to do training and when I got old enough I played more competitively as well as go to camps in the states and started to put myself out there more.” Katley Joseph, a defensive back at the University of Maine said, “I really have to thank Coach Jean for all of the help in my recruiting and my high school time. Theres not a word to describe this man, he’s done so much for me.”
Coach Jean Guillaume has been one of many in the community here in Ottawa that have been striving for success, not only for themselves but for the people around them as well. Those are the people who have changed the narrative of the city of Ottawa and have given a positive impact to the future of the city. “When I first heard of what Jean was doing at St Matthews, I was all in to help. I was once a kid with a dream, and now to see that these kids who have that same dream could connect with somebody like Jean, I was thrilled to help him and seeing what he’s been able to do in just a few years, I know he’s doing something special, and it shows with all the guys he’s sent across the border.” Said former NFL player Christo Bilukidi.
Looking at the university level, which the city of Ottawa, and the country of Canada have really been taking over recently, Coach Jean and Ottawa have a list of guys at that stage. This year we have the pleasure to watch Jesse Luketa and Sammy Obiang, Akheem Mesidor, Geri Theodore, Patrice Rene, Kenny Mestidor, Jonathan Sutherland, Luiji Vilain, Kervens Bonhomme and more. Of course as one from the city of Ottawa its so nice to see but for one that has gone through the same path as them and one that went and did it as a first to do so it is even better, “Its awesome to see the movement that has been created out in Ottawa. I remember being a kid in Ottawa telling everyone that I wanted to be in the NFL and people always laughed at me, doubting it would be possible. Going through my path was so tough but now as I cover college football with ESPN or even if I’m on ABC for the draft, every-time I see someone from my city or even a Canadian I get so hyped up.” Says former NFL Quarterback and current ESPN reporter Jesse Palmer.
Palmer, being one that made it not only to the division one level, but also the NFL with the New York Giants, he was able to go through each and every stage that the two Ankou and Gallimore have. Ankou comments, “Even when I made it to the University level. When I signed with UCLA, I knew I hadn’t arrived yet. I couldn’t celebrate yet because there was still so much work left to do. Now seeing what I’ve been able to do, its great but like it was in college, I still haven’t arrived.”
Not only does Eli Ankou have a lot left in him to showcase what he has to show on the field but he still has lots left to do off the field and here in Ottawa. “Last year, like many do in Ottawa I gave back. I did my own football camp with my charity, the Dreamcatcher Foundation and just seeing the amount of energy this city has it gets me going. Its great too be able to have a platform where I’m able to give back but there’s also so many other people giving back as well.”
One of the other hometown guys that loves to give back to the city of Ottawa is Redblacks’ offensive lineman Alex Mateas. He comments, “Its my favourite thing about being a professional athlete… I had one of the best support systems when I was growing up and to be able to show my thanks towards not only those close to me but the whole city that has given me so much I’m just so happy to be able to do it and I can’t wait to see more athletes on the come up doing the same.”