Prior to this spring’s CFL Combine in Toronto, Jesse Briggs wasn’t being touted as a top tier prospect for the league’s annual draft.
But after impressing all nine CFL teams in March with his athleticism and physical test scores, the 24-year-old Kelowna product suddenly became a much sought-after commodity.
On Tuesday, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers expressed their confidence in the McGill Redmen linebacker by choosing Briggs in the second round—17th overall—of the 2014 CFL Draft.
Briggs, who played two seasons with the KSS Owls, was with his mom and brother in Montreal when his name was announced during draft coverage on TSN.
And Briggs was thrilled with the outcome.
“It was a great night,” Briggs told the Capital News on Wednesday morning.
“I would have been happy with any team, but when I heard it was Winnipeg I had to admit I was pretty excited. They have a new coach there in Mike O’Shea, he was a great player for a long time in the league, and I just get a lot of good vibes from them.
“I know they want me,” he added, “because they traded up to get me. I’m really excited.”
Briggs, who was named the Redmen’s defensive player of the year in 2013, has always had the pro football dream in the back of his mind, but it wasn’t until the last couple of seasons that playing in the CFL just might be a realistic goal.
Redmen coach Clint Uttley said Briggs’ progress over the last season and half has been remarkable, to say the least.
“Jesse has grown so much over the last year that he made himself into a CFL prospect,” Uttley said. “A gym rat with outstanding strength, he is a superb athlete who can run from sideline to sideline to make a play.
“He possesses an outstanding football IQ. Highly competitive, Jesse brings a great attitude and effort every day. He is a very humble, selfless team player.”
Briggs will go to Bombers’ training camp this month with every intention of making the CFL team, but he could also be returned for a fifth season at McGill.
Briggs is clear on what option he prefers.
“My goal is to make the team this year, they want me to contribute on special teams right away and I’m prepared to do that,” said Briggs, who played two seasons at KSS for coach Roy Anderson. “They could send me back and say go back to school for one year, and that sure wouldn’t be the worst thing…but my goal is definitely to play in the CFL as soon as I can.”
Just minutes before Briggs was chosen, former Okanagan Sun player and Concordia Stingers’ linebacker Max Caron was selected in the second round, 16th overall by the Calgary Stampeders.
A native of Kingston, Ont., Caron played in 2008 and 2009 with the Sun, compiling 62 tackles and five fumble recoveries.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Caron, who has played four seasons at Concordia, was the CIS defensive player of the year in 2011.
Former Sun head man Peter McCall, who coached Caron for two seasons, isn’t the least bit surprised by the progress the talented linebacker has made since leaving Kelowna.
“Matt had one of those motors that never stopped,” McCall said. “He had a nose for at the ball, he’s an intelligent kid, and he worked so hard, you just knew if he stayed on the path he was on he was going to go somewhere. It’s nice to see that time has come for him.”
Briggs and Caron will join their respective new teams for training camp at the end of this month.