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U.S.-born CFL prospects excited about possibilities of being Canadian

Dual-citizen pair intrigued by possibilities created by rules defining ‘Canadian’
Joel Dublanko (left) and Casey Bauman don’t need their newfound dual citizenships to make them feel at home in Canada. The American-born football prospects have family ties that led to their designations as nationals for the April 30 CFL global and Canadian drafts, but they both already felt a connection. Dublanko and Bauman pose for a photo at the CFL National Combine on March 20, 2024 in Winnipeg. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Andrew Mahon/CFL

Casey Bauman and Joel Dublanko don’t need their new-found dual citizenships to make them feel at home in Canada.

The American-born football prospects have family ties that led to their designations as nationals for the April 30 CFL global and Canadian drafts, but they both already felt a connection.

“It doesn’t feel that weird to me because Canada was my backyard,” said Bauman, a six-foot-seven, 225-pound quarterback who was born in Sumas, Wash. “My house is like five minutes from the Canadian border.”

Bauman’s mother was born in Abbotsford, B.C., and the family often crossed into Canada for visits to Vancouver. He’d also go skiing at Whistler with his three younger brothers.

“I’m just really thankful that I have this opportunity and the CFL is allowing me to be here,” he said.

Dublanko’s ties to Canada came through his quick-thinking grandmother.

“My grandma and grandpa were born and raised in Canada,” the linebacker said. “They’re pastors and they went down into the States.

“My grandma was pregnant with my dad at the time so she ran back up to Canada to have my dad (in Edmonton) and then brought him back down.”

Dublanko was born in Aberdeen, Wash. His family also vacationed in Canada, skiing at Whistler and Big White, or visited relatives in Edmonton. He saw one of his cousins play in the CFL. Curtis Dublanko was a linebacker with the Montreal Alouettes and former Eskimos from 2011-14.

“All my family is just super excited right now,” Dublanko said. “A lot of my Canadian relatives are messaging me and just cheering me on and really excited that I’m here. It’s a lot of fun.”

He and Bauman are among 84 hopefuls at this week’s CFL national combine, which includes interviews with coaches and general managers, drills and practices through Sunday.

The duo is sharing a room and both are intriguing prospects.

Dublanko is projected to go high in the draft because of his pro experience.

The six-foot-three, 240-pound starred at the University of Cincinnati, went undrafted in the NFL, but spent some time with the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks.

He played one game with the XFL’s San Antonio Brahmas and then signed with the USFL’s Philadelphia Stars last year. He recorded 17 tackles, 10 assists and 0.5 sacks in seven contests.

Dublanko said the Ottawa Redblacks reached out to him last year and were interested in signing him as an American. He told them he could get dual citizenship, but before any paperwork was done he signed with the Philadelphia Stars and shifted his focus.

He became a Canadian prospect a few weeks ago and is ready to showcase his professional skills.

“Just the way you practise and the way you handle your business and take care of your job, I think there’s definitely an advantage,” Dublanko said.

Montreal Alouettes GM Danny Maciocia said even with Dublanko’s pro experience, more due diligence is required. He added the next step is getting film on Dublanko and talking to people who worked with him and do “a bit of a character check.”

Teams have also been gathering info on Bauman, who overcame injuries in college.

He played two seasons at Augustana University in South Dakota, throwing for 2,878 yards with 29 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 13 games last year. He had transferred from Montana State University in 2022.

Bauman’s towering height should provide him with good downfield vision and fewer knocked-down passes, said Calgary Stampeders head coach/GM Dave Dickenson.

“Usually at six-seven, you’re maybe not as agile or quick, so you take advantage of the strengths you have,” said Dickenson, a former NFL and CFL quarterback. “But (Bauman) has a really strong arm, can throw the rock.

“I’ll be excited to see what he can do.”

Bauman rushed 99 times for 322 yards with five TDs last season and wants to display his versatility. He describes his biggest strength as throwing the ball, but says he can also make plays with his feet.

“My skillset plays well into the CFL game plan,” he said.

He’s watched three-down games online and followed B.C. Lions quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. when he played at Eastern Washington.

“Seeing his success translate to the CFL, that’s inspiring to me,” Bauman said.

Obtaining dual citizenship isn’t the only way non-Canadians can become eligible for the CFL draft.

In 2019, the league introduced a process allowing American and global prospects to qualify as Canadians if they play three years at a single U Sports institution and graduate from that school. None are at this year’s combine.

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