2017 CFL draft ends long, patient wait for offensive lineman Dariusz Bladek

Bladek's long wait finally coming to end

TORONTO — The 2017 CFL draft can’t come fast enough for Dariusz Bladek.

The six-foot-four, 306-pound Bethune-Cookman University offensive lineman is expected to be an early pick Sunday night. When Bladek’s name is called, it’ll cap a long, often frustrating journey to a pro football career in Canada.

“It has been a long time coming,” Bladek, 23, said via telephone from Florida. “I’m excited about it . . . This is what I’ve been dreaming about, thinking about every hour, every minute.

“Any team that believes enough in me to select me is going to get my full-fledged dedication. No matter what pick that is, I’ll be seen as a priority and that means a lot . . . whenever you’re made a priority, that’s a really good sign.”

Winnipeg has three of the opening 15 picks, including the first- and sixth-overall selections. After Saskatchewan goes at No. 2, B.C. will make the first of its two first-round choices at No. 3 before following Hamilton, Edmonton and Blue Bombers at No. 7.

Calgary and Grey Cup-champion Ottawa complete the round.

Becoming draft eligible really tested Bladek’s patience and perseverance.

Bladek was born in Florida to a Canadian mother. He divulged his roots during a conversation with the Stampeders, prompting them to say if Bladek acquired dual citizenship he could play in Canada as a national.

Americans play in the CFL but clubs covet Canadian offensive linemen. Many start at least three and some of the top performers earn over $200,000 annually.

Bladek skipped his senior college season for the ’16 NFL draft. After being bypassed, he attended the Baltimore Ravens mini-camp but didn’t receive a contract so Bladek began the dual citizenship process.

However it was a lengthy affair, resulting in Bladek missing both the 2016 CFL draft and supplemental draft. The paperwork was finally completed in time for Bladek to participate in the league’s combine in Regina in March.

Bladek performed well enough there to finish 10th on the CFL scouting bureau’s final top-20 prospects list last month for the ’17 draft, an improvement of five spots.

“At first, I was like, ‘I’m going to get back into ball, this will be great,'” Bladek said. “But when everything hit the fan, I needed at least a week to calm down, I was very emotional.

“I just had to trust the people around me and understand my situation wasn’t normal. Fortunately, I was raised by a wonderful father who works his behind off all the time in his business and that trickled down to me to where if this was what I had to do to prove this is what I wanted . . . then I was going to do everything I could to be ready when it happened.”

Bladek certainly kept busy. He worked full-time with his father, Bogdan, renovating restaurants while coaching football at Poinciana High School in Kissimmee, Fla., and working out.

While the year away from football was difficult, Bladek drew inspiration from his father.

“My dad came from Poland at age 18,” Bladek said. “He doesn’t have a degree but he’s worked long and as hard as he could to perfect his craft.

“I feel if my dad can (persevere and succeed) there’s no reason why I can’t. When I work with him sometimes I ask, ‘How do you do it?’ But then he asks how do I play football or take the hits? You’ve got to love it.”

One adjustment Bladek faces in Canada is dealing with defensive linemen coming at him a yard off the ball.

“That’s really different with the timing of my punch,” he said. “But it’s something I’ll get and am looking forward to learning.”

Bladek is also anxious to become more than just a football player with his new team.

“One thing I mentioned in my interviews (during CFL combine) was one of the main purposes of becoming a national . . . was I wanted to make sure the communities with these amazing nine teams know when I get drafted, I’ll be a part of the community,” he said. “I can make a place my home and not only visit for work.

“One day I’ll hopefully have a wife and family in Canada with me and they can embrace the same thing I see.”

Bladek said the year off has helped him physically but he doesn’t see being overly rusty upon donning the pads.

“The time off has given my body some real good recovery,” he said. “You can train as hard as you want but there’s a difference between training and going up against a guy and playing 60-70 plays in a game and having the endurance to last.”

Something Bladek will bring to Canada is his passion for hockey. Growing up in New Jersey, he became a Devils fan and savoured multiple Stanley Cups during GM Lou Lamoriello’s tenure.

With Lamoriello now in Toronto, Bladek rooted for the Leafs during their opening round playoff loss to Washington.

“He (Lamoriello) did a great job for us, I was upset Toronto didn’t win,” he said. “Could you imagine if the Raptors and Leafs both won their first-round series? 

“It would’ve been crazy there.”

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Trail vet says voting system has worked for 150 years

Letter to the Editor from Vaughn Budd of Trail

Kootenay employers ready to meet job seekers at Black Press career fair

Dozens of companies will attend the event on Nov. 15 at the Ktunaxa Nation Building in Cranbrook

Sandblasting Silver City skate sign

The Trail Sk8 Park was closed on Thursday so workers could ready a sign for painting

Area A seeks views on cannabis rules

The public hearing for Area A residents will go Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 5 p.m.

Trail liquor store held up Friday night

The perpetrator was brandishing a weapon that appeared to be a gun, according to the Trail RCMP

VIDEO: Amazon to split second HQ between New York, Virginia

Official decision expected later Tuesday to end competition between North American cities to win bid and its promise of 50,000 jobs

Canada Post no longer guarantees delivery times amid more rotating strikes

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers closed two major processing centres in Ontario and B.C.

B.C. city councillor resigns as AutismBC director amid SOGI controversy

AutismBC president Gary Robins says Laurie Guerra’s resignation is effective Nov. 12

McGill students vote overwhelmingly to change Redmen team nickname

Student union held a referendum after a campaign by Indigenous students

B.C. university Pride group replaces white supremacy posters

Around 50 people walked through downtown Victoria to share posters of love

B.C. to invest $492 million in affordable homes

72 new projects are part of a 10-year, $1.9-billion strategy

Around the BCHL: Surrey Eagles sliding and Cassidy Bowes flows

Around the BCHL is a look at what’s happening in the league and around the junior A world.

Pit bull cross, chihuahua owners must split costs for dogfight damage, judge rules

Eac side responsible for $577.43 towards injuries in Comox Valley incident

3 random words mark every spot on earth

Innovative mapping system assigns three word combinations to 57 trillion 3 metre squares

Most Read