Travelling to Vancouver last season on a weekly basis to practise with a professional team was the highlight of Steven Doege’s football career to date.
In 2013, the Okanagan Sun defensive end would like his association with the B.C. Lions to have considerably more permanence.
Doege, 22, will be in Kamloops at the end of this month for the CFL club’s rookie camp, followed by main camp in early June.
If all goes as hoped for the Rutland grad over the next several weeks, Doege will ultimately land a spot on the Lions’ 42-man opening-day roster.
“That’s my full intention, to make the team this year,” said Doege, who has one season of eligibility with the Sun remaining. “I feel like I’m a step ahead of where I was last year, stronger and more technically advanced. I’m excited to give it a shot.”
In addition to being a year older and more experienced, the 6-foot-3 Doege added close to 20 pounds of muscle in the off-season and now tips the scales at 255.
After the Lions signed him as a territorial exemption in June of last year, Doege made weekly trips to the Lower Mainland to work out with the CFL team, then returned to Kelowna on weekends to play with the Sun.
Lions’ player personnel coordinator, Neil McEvoy, said Doege has so far exceeded expectations and continues to push the Lions to bring him on board.
“After seeing him training with us last year, we felt his growth and talent was something we wanted to invest in,” McEvoy said of Doege who saw action in one exhibition game with the Lions last year. “The type of player he is, a hardworking individual who takes pride in getting better, he’s really shown us he has potential to be a solid player for us.”
If Doege does earn passing marks through training camp and pre-season, and makes the Lions, McEvoy said the Canadian Junior Football League’s all-time sack leader will be given the appropriate amount of time to develop his game at the pro level—first as a special teams player, then ideally, as a defensive end.
“We’re not going to throw him to the wolves, he’s got to develop into a defensive end over time, a Canadian playing a position that’s traditionally filled by an American,” McEvoy said. “Right now, he’s got to be at a weight that he can run well and cover kicks and punts. He has an opportunity to be a good special teams player and we’re hoping he comes in and shows that.
“If he continues to progress like he has,” McEvoy added, “then he has a very good chance of making our 42-man roster.”
From Doege’s perspective, nothing could compare to playing football for a living.
“I love playing and I’d really rather play football than work,” Doege said with a smile. “I know you get paid and it’s your job, but it’s fun. It’s what I want to do.”
Two former Sun players, receiver Bobby Davis and kicker Steven Shott, will join Doege at Lions rookie camp in Kamloops.
The Lions liked enough of what they saw to sign the two Sun grads last November.
“Those two guys are more projects for us right now, they’re very good football players, but barring any surprises I don’t see them making our team this year,” McEvoy said of Davis and Shott. “In football, you’re required to groom these guys properly and hope they can come in, survive and be back to play for a job down the road. We obviously like both of those guys.”
B.C. Lions’ rookie camp runs Thursday, May 30 to Saturday, June 1 at Hillside Stadium in Kamloops. Main camp begins June 2.