Riders select 'unicorn' from U of S Huskies in CFL Draft
SASKATOON -- A University of Saskatchewan Huskies player is the first defensive back to be selected with a top two pick in the CFL Draft since 2008.
“Extremely excited when they called my name, I don't even know how to describe the emotions I felt, but I'm beyond excited to be a part of it,” said Nelson Lokombo, who the Saskatchewan Roughriders nabbed with the second overall pick.
“I'm hoping to come in and learn the system and do whatever I can to help the team. Whether it be getting a starting role or helping out on special teams, I think that I can make an impact any way.”
“We think that Nelson's a special player,” said Roughriders’ general manager Jeremy O’Day.
“We felt like he can come in and be an impact player for us, and have a long career in the CFL. Obviously there's projections that we're doing here, but we feel like he's a special talent.”
“He's almost like a unicorn,” said former Roughrider and current Huskies defensive backs coach Paul Woldu. “He's a player that comes along maybe once every couple of decades.”
Woldu played with the Huskies before being drafted in 2008, and knows the pressure that comes along with playing professionally in Saskatchewan.
“It's a privilege to be pressured and I think it all depends on how you take and what kind of personality you are. And that's the one thing about Nelson, when you see he's not overly loud, he doesn't get too high with the highs, he doesn't get to low with the lows. He's incredibly even keeled, and that's the one thing, I think the maturity level that he has.”
Offensive lineman Connor Berglof was picked 24th overall by the Ottawa Redblacks, and defensive back Josh Hagerty will head to the Toronto Argonauts as the 47th pick.
Bergloff says he missed the moment the Redblacks selected him.
“I found out because my agent called me,” he said.
“I was watching the tracker, I looked away for like two minutes, and apparently I went and I didn't realize it until he called me. But once I found out it was great, super stoked.”
Former Huskies offensive lineman Evan Johnson was taken in the first round by the Redblacks in 2017, and has been in touch with Berglof.
“He says it's a great program, great city great locker room and I'm going to have a great time up there,” said Berglof.
“I was talking to coach [Paul] LaPolice a bit, we're kind of on the same mindset. He loves to run the ball, and I'm a gritty offensive lineman who loves to do just that, so we think I'm gonna fit in well there.”
“Bergy is incredibly athletic,” said Woldu. “He's a big boy, he moves well, he's tough, he’s physical.”
“It's been pretty cool to watch his growth, obviously for me it's almost at a distance because I'm on the backend and I’m the farthest guy from him, but he's a tough kid, smart, and it's pretty cool.”
Hagerty had to wait until the final round to hear his name called. His dad Jeff won a Vanier Cup with the Huskies in 1990.
“He's my biggest fan and biggest supporter,” he said. “He may have been more nervous than I was.”
“Really excited to get to Toronto, beautiful city. Going to be a lot bigger than Regina and Saskatoon, so I'm pumped to get out there and hopefully win some Grey Cups with the Argos.”
“He's a tremendous player,” Woldu said of Hagerty. “He's going to be able to play on special teams, he's a big body, he runs good for a kid, he's got good range, and then he could come down in the box and knock your teeth out if needed.”
In the last five CFL Drafts, a total of 13 Saskatchewan Huskies have been selected.
“It's incredible,” Woldu said of the success, crediting current head coach Scott Flory.
“When the guy running your program is—and it's not even arguably—is the greatest offensive lineman probably to play in the history of the CFL, he's a Hall of Famer, and to know that that's who leads our program.”