Sun signs star receiver for rest of season

Rashaun Simonise, who spent part of the NFL exhibition season with Cincinnati, will join the B.C. Football Conference team this weekend

Former CIS all-Canadian receiver Rashaun Simonise is expected to play for the Okanagan Sun Saturday night against the Saskatoon Hilltops.

In what could arguably be the most significant signing in the organization’s history, the Okanagan Sun has landed Rashaun Simonise for the remainder B.C. Football Conference season.

A skilled receiver and explosive kick returner, the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Vancouver product comes to the Sun after a brief stopover with the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2016 NFL preseason.

Simonese, 21, who was signed by Cincinnati this fall as a free agent, caught two passes for 64 yards in two games for the Bengals before being released on Sept. 3.

A CIS all-Canadian last season with the Calgary Dinos, he caught  51 passes for 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Simonise will be in Kelowna in time for this Saturday night’s game at the Apple Bowl against the Saskatoon Hilltops.

“With NFL experience, he immediately impacts the league and draws defensive attention,” said Sun head coach Ben Macauley. “He is also a dynamic returner with unmatched athleticism.

“It’s only a matter of time before he’s back in the NFL, but we’re excited he’s chosen to finish the season with us.”

The Sun has had Simonise on its radar since Macauley recruited him as a senior at Vancouver College back in 2012.

With the help of Kyle Kuzek, a former Sun player who lives on the Lower Mainland, the Sun was able to get Simonese sealed and signed on Sunday night.

“Rashaun has certain goals and he wants to play at the highest level,” said Macauley. “Right now, winning a national championship is the first step for him, we were able come to an agreement and he’s really excited about joining us.

“He’s very passionate about football, he’ll bring a great work ethic and passion that will rub off on the other guys.”

Currently in a battle for first place and in a tie with the Westshore Rebels—both teams are 6-1—Simonise’s arrival couldn’t come at a much better time for the Sun.

The defending Canadian champion Saskatoon Hilltops will provide the opposition on Saturday night.

And while the new roster addition doesn’t guarantee victory, Macauley expects Simonise’s presence to give the entire team a considerable boost.

“If anything, I think this gives our guys a sense of how badly we want to put together a winning team and a championship team,” he said. “Other teams are going to have to double and triple team him and that’s going to open some space for other guys. He’s also very dangerous returning kicks.

“We’ll still have to be at our best fundamentally,” Macauley added. “One spectacular player isn’t necessarily going to equal a win. But he does make us that much better.”

Simonise is also expected to be a first-round pick in next year’s CFL draft.

Kick off between the Sun and Saskatoon on Saturday night at the Apple Bowl is 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Sun is coming off a 29-23 setback to the Rebels on Saturday night in Victoria. Running back Jamel Lyles scored the winning touchdown with just 16 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.