Over the years the city of Ottawa has been very fortunate to see a number of people succeed through the game of football. Although it may not be as advertised as the success that other athletes have had in sports like hockey, basketball, baseball or even golf there has been a lot of success and a lot of it being recent.
Just last weekend we were able to see first hand the success through the game of football in Ottawa when the Dallas Cowboys hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was the first time since Eli Ankou had been traded to Dallas that we had the opportunity to watch both of Ottawa’s NFL players line up side by side on the Cowboys defensive line. Not only was that a great moment to witness but both Neville Gallimore and Eli Ankou weren’t even the only Canadians in the game, there were actually 3 others. Also suiting up for the Cowboys this year from the north side of the border is both Tyrone Crawford (Windsor, ON) and L.P Ladadoucer (Quebec) and for the Steelers they have rookie wideout Chase Claypool from Abbotsford, BC.
Of course seeing the success that these guys are having at the NFL level is great to see and as Canadians we are proud to see it but before they made it to the NFL these players weren’t looked at as highly. Being from Canada, the football isn’t the most advertised sport and with that the players from here, if you aren’t the best ones here your name won’t be known and that’s why its so special for us Canadians to see 5 Canadian players in one NFL game together.
“Growing up in Ottawa I only started playing football a little later so I didn’t know too much about it growing up but when I got to high school and playing for Coach Jean I saw how big the football community really is here. It was like when we saw one of our guys from Ottawa succeed through football, we all came together to celebrate it and its really nice to see how it brings us together.” Says University of Maine defensive back Katley Joseph.
Like Joseph had mentioned, the city comes together as one when one succeeds through the game of football, but it doesn’t just stop at that. Here in Ottawa we’ve been able to see the beauty of what a community should look like. Former NFL athlete Christo Bilukidi comments, “Its a great system we have here in Ottawa. We’ve seen a few guys go to the NFL, we’ve now had 4 from Ottawa and in Canada we’ve had a lot more collectively. Whenever we have guys go to that level they don’t hesitate to come back to the city. The way coach Jean and other coached in Ottawa have taught their players, the guys in Ottawa are all for helping the next generation of athletes and here in Ottawa the next generation has everything going for them.”
With the successful athletes that keep coming out of the city of Ottawa the future is bright and the help of these professional athletes are a huge reason for it, “My favourite part in being a professional football player, and an athlete in my hometown is having the chance to give back to the city that has given so much to me. Whether its coaching some kids, giving them a speech or just being at an event, I’m all about helping the future generation in any way possible and I’m happy I can do it.” Mentions Ottawa Redblacks offensive lineman Alex Mateas.
Touching on the impact that these pro athletes have had on the kids is Clearwater Academy defensive back Nathan Casimir, “Its so awesome to see. We get the opportunity to train with guys like Sherrod (Baltimore) every once and a while and it gives us the chance to not only get better but learn from someone that has made it. Its not everyday you get to train with a pro and I think we are benefiting from it.”
“I remember one time last year when Sherrod had brought us cleats and gloves to a practice. It was great to see as a coach that not only is he coming to help coach and show support but he actually cares and having cleats and gloves for the kids relieved a lot for myself and the parents that maybe can’t afford the gear. Its the small things like that which I like to see and it shows me that the guys care about the future of the city.” Says Ottawa legend Coach Jean Guillaume.
Caring about the future of the city of Ottawa is a number of Ottawa Redblacks players, and while I worked on this four-part documentary series I realized just how big this football community in Ottawa really is. I was first introduced to it through Sherrod Baltimore of the Ottawa Redblacks and I’m continuing to learn more about my city through guys like Coach Jean Guillaume, Iseah Montgiraud, the founder of Limitless Era and more that have also welcomed me to the football community in Ottawa and as I continue to learn about my city I look forward to teach more about my city as well. Starting in the new year, 2021 myself and the group that I worked on this four-part documentary series with will be back and shining the light more on the city’s football. Stay tuned for more.