OTTAWA (CIS) – As announced last month, Manitoba nose tackle David Onyemata, Calgary centre Sean McEwen and Laval guard Charles Vaillancourt will represent Canadian Interuniversity Sport football in the 91st edition of the prestigious East-West Shrine Game this Saturday, January 23 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. EST, live on NFL Network. The game will also be live online as a streaming radio broadcast produced by the EWSG Radio Network, which can be accessed at www.shrinegame.com/en/GameWeek.
The longest running university all-star game in the United States, the Shrine Game has been played annually since 1925 to raise funds for Shriners Hospitals for Children and to raise awareness about the expert orthopedic, burn, spinal cord injury rehabilitation, as well as cleft lip and palate care, available to patients and families through the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children in the USA, Canada and Mexico.
Since 1985, CIS has been represented annually at the event which features over 100 all-stars, primarily from NCAA institutions. On most occasions, two CIS players have made the trip across the border, with the exception of 1985 (1), 2008 (4), 2012 (3), and now 2016 (3).
A native of Lagos, Nigeria, Onyemata had never played football before moving to Canada five years ago. After four exceptional campaigns with the Bisons, the 6-foot-4, 300-pound arts student is the top-ranked CIS prospect – second overall – on the latest CFL Scouting Bureau list in advance of the league's 2016 draft.
The 23-year-old had a tremendous fourth season with the U of M this fall, earning his second straight Canada West all-star nod, his first selection as an all-Canadian and the J.P. Metras Trophy as the top down lineman in CIS football. A starter in all eight league games, he finished second in his conference and ninth in the country in sacks (5), was also second in Canada West in tackles for a loss (7.5) and ranked 12th in overall tackles (38.5), all of this despite being double-teamed on most plays. He also contributed one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Onyemata is the fourth Manitoba player invited to the East-West Shrine Game and the first since defensive lineman Evan Gill in 2014.
"We are very proud of David. This tremendous honour becomes a great opportunity for him to showcase his skills and is yet another accomplishment in what has become a true Cinderella story in CIS," said Bisons head coach Brian Dobie. "David's journey from never seeing or playing football just five years ago to being able to win a major CIS national award and now playing in the East-West Shrine Game is truly remarkable and speaks to his character, drive and talent."
McEwen, who hails from Calgary, was the second CIS player selected in the 2015 CFL draft last May, when the Toronto Argonauts picked him third overall. Instead of turning pro right away, the team captain elected to return to the Dinos this fall to complete his science degree and the move paid off, both in the classroom and on the field.
In his fifth and final university season, the 6-foot-3, 297-pound veteran was named a Canada West all-star for the fourth straight year and an all-Canadian for the third consecutive campaign, including back-to-back first-team nods. He helped the Dinos shatter the conference record for points scored for the second year in a row with 471 in eight league games, for a mindboggling average of 58.9 per contest. Thanks in large part to his steady play under centre, Calgary led the Canada West conference in every major offensive category and quarterback Andrew Buckley captured his second straight Hec Crighton Trophy after setting a new CIS single-season standard with 3,162 passing yards.
McEwen became the 12th Dino standout selected to suit up in the Shrine Game – a CIS best – and the first since former linemate Kirby Fabien in 2013.
"Sean is an exceptional leader and has demonstrated the ability to dominate on the offensive line," said Dinos sideline boss Wayne Harris, the reigning CIS coach of the year. "He has the respect of his teammates and the opposition alike, and this recognition is a fitting way for him to end his university football career, following in the great tradition of Dinos offensive linemen attending the Shrine Game. He is a deserving candidate and will be a strong representative for CIS football and the University of Calgary."
Vaillancourt, a native of Coaticook, Que., moved up four positions to No. 6 on the latest CFL Scouting Bureau list and is currently considered the second-best CIS prospect behind Onyemata. The 6-foot-4, 325-pound business administration student will move to the pro ranks as one of the most decorated offensive lineman in CIS football history.
In four seasons with Laval, he helped the team capture a pair of Vanier Cup titles, was named an all-Canadian every year - including first-team selections each of the past three campaigns - and this fall was the RSEQ conference nominee for the J.P. Metras Trophy as the nation's best down lineman. The 23-year-old team captain, who represented Team World at the 2012 International Bowl in Texas, was as dominant as ever in 2015, helping the Rouge et Or offence top the Quebec league in points (37.3 per game), total yards (506.9) and rushing (211.0).
With Vaillancourt's selection, Laval now ranks third among CIS schools with five players invited to the Shrine Game over the years. Defensive lineman Arnaud Gascon-Nadon was the last Rouge et Or to earn the honour in 2012.
"Charles is fully deserving of this honour," said Rouge et Or head coach Glen Constantin. "He was one of the most recruited offensive linemen across the country out of CEGEP, after he was named lineman of the year in 2011. He earned the starting job at guard right away on a very good line comprised of many veterans, including three who later became first-round selections in the CFL draft. Charles has greatly contributed to our production on offence since he joined our program and he had another dominant season in 2015, this time with added responsibilities as a team captain."
Onyemata will suit up for the West team led by June Jones, a former head coach in the NFL (Atlanta, San Diego) and the NCAA (Hawaii, SMU) who also spent time in the CFL as a player (Toronto) and offensive coordinator (Ottawa).
McEwen and Vaillancourt will play for the East under Charlie Weis, a former Super Bowl-winning offensive coordinator with New England who most recently was the head coach for the NCAA's Kansas Jayhawks (2012-2014).
NOTES: The East won the 2015 Shrine Game 19-3 but the West still leads the all-time series 47-38-5... The impressive list of past CIS standouts invited to the Shrine Game includes current NFL linemen Akiem Hicks of the New Orleans Saints and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif of the Kansas City Chiefs, who starred for the Regina Rams and McGill Redmen, respectively; former NFLers Mike Schad (Queen's), Randy Chevrier (McGill), Dan Federkeil (Calgary), Samuel Giguère (Sherbrooke) and Israel Idonije (Manitoba); as well as Hec Crighton Trophy winners Don Blair (Calgary), Kojo Aidoo (McMaster), Jesse Lumsden (McMaster) and Andy Fantuz (Western)... Highlighting the list of NFL greats who have participated in the event are Tom Brady, Dick Butkus, Larry Csonka, John Elway, Brett Favre, Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, Roger Staubach and Kellen Winslow. Coaches include Paul "Bear" Bryant, Jerry Glanville, June Jones, Don Shula, Steve Spurrier and Dick Vermeil... Seventy-one Shrine Game alumni have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
For all the information on the 2016 East-West Shrine Game: www.shrinegame.com
WESTERN CIS PLAYERS IN THE EAST-WEST SHRINE GAME
Year Player Pos. Ht. Wt. University Head Coach
2016 Sean McEwen OL 6-3 297 Calgary Wayne Harris
2016 David Onyemata DL 6-4 295 Manitoba Brian Dobie
2015 Addison Richards WR 6-5 205 Regina Frank McCrystal
2014 Evan Gill DL 6-3 280 Manitoba Brian Dobie
2013 Kirby Fabien OL 6-6 295 Calgary Blake Nill
2012 Ben Heenan OL 6-4 310 Saskatchewan Brian Towriss
2012 Akiem Hicks DL 6-5 300 Regina Frank McCrystal
2011 Anthony Parker SB 6-2 215 Calgary Blake Nill
2010 Jordan Sisco SB 6-1 212 Regina Frank McCrystal
2009 Simeon Rottier OL 6-6 286 Alberta Jerry Friesen
2008 Dylan Barker S 6-4 200 Saskatchewan Brian Towriss
2008 Brendon LaBatte OL 6-4 320 Regina Frank McCrystal
2007 Jordan Rempel OL 6-6 310 Saskatchewan Brian Towriss
2006 Daniel Federkeil DL 6-7 285 Calgary Tony Fasano
2005 Nick Johansson DL 6-2 275 UBC Lou DesLauriers
2004 Ibrahim Khan OL 6-4 305 Simon Fraser Chris Beaton
2003 Israel Idonije DL 6-7 285 Manitoba Brian Dobie
2002 Jason Clermont IR 6-1 236 Regina Frank McCrystal
2001 Carlo Panaro OL 6-2 281 Alberta Tom Wilkinson
2000 Kevin Lefsrud OL 6-4 285 Saskatchewan Brian Towriss
1999 Scott Flory OL 6-4 290 Saskatchewan Brian Towriss
1998 Bob Beveridge OL 6-6 308 UBC Casey Smith
1997 Ben Fairbrother OL 6-4 305 Calgary Tony Fasano
1996 Don Blair WR 6-4 280 Calgary Peter Connellan
1995 Rohn Meyer OL 6-4 280 Calgary Peter Connellan
1994 Travis Serke OL 6-3 290 Saskatchewan Brian Towriss
1993 Chris Konrad DL 6-3 235 Calgary Peter Connellan
1992 Jason Rauhaus DL 6-1 240 Manitoba Scott Spurgeon
1991 Mike Pavelec OL 6-6 280 Calgary Peter Connellan
1990 Mark Singer LB 6-0 221 Alberta Jim Donlevy
1989 Brent Korte DL 6-1 225 Alberta Jim Donlevy
1988 Craig Watson OL 6-2 250 Calgary Peter Connellan
1987 Leo Groenewegen OL 6-4 260 UBC Frank Smith
1986 Kent Warnock DL 6-7 265 Calgary Peter Connellan
1985 Tom Spoletini OL 6-2 270 Calgary Peter Connellan
EASTERN CIS PLAYERS IN THE EAST-WEST SHRINE GAME
Year Player Pos. Ht. Wt. University Head Coach
2016 Charles Vaillancourt OL 6-4 315 Laval Glen Constantin
2015 Daryl Waud DL 6-5 270 Western Greg Marshall
2014 Laurent Duvernay-Tardif OL 6-5 315 McGill Clint Uttley
2013 Matt Sewell OL 6-8 335 McMaster Stefan Ptaszek
2012 Arnaud Gascon-Nadon DL 6-3 250 Laval Glen Constantin
2011 Matthew O'Donnell OL 6-10 340 Queen's Pat Sheahan
2010 Matt Morencie OL 6-3 290 Windsor Mike Morencie
2009 Étienne Légaré DL 6-4 265 Laval Glen Constantin
2008 Éric Maranda LB 6-2 228 Laval Glen Constantin
2008 Samuel Giguère WR 6-0 215 Sherbrooke André Bolduc
2007 Chris Best OL 6-4 320 Waterloo Marshall Bingeman
2006 Andy Fantuz WR 6-4 220 Western Larry Haylor
2005 Jesse Lumsden RB 6-2 226 McMaster Marcello Campanaro
2004 Carl Gourgues OL 6-1 290 Laval Glen Constantin
2003 Adam MacDonald LB 5-11 215 StFX Dennis McPhee
2002 Kojo Aidoo RB 5-11 235 McMaster Greg Marshall
2001 Randy Chevrier DL 6-4 295 McGill Charlie Baillie
2000 Kojo Millington DL 6-3 245 Wilfrid Laurier Rick Zmich
1999 Cameron Legault DL 6-3 245 Carleton Donn Smith
1998 Dave Miller-Johnston P/K 6-1 180 Concordia Pat Sheahan
1997 Mark Farraway DL 6-5 260 StFX John Stevens
1996 Harry Van Hofwegen DL 6-4 252 Carleton Donn Smith
1995 Matthieu Quiviger OL 6-5 282 McGill Charlie Baillie
1994 Val St. Germain OL 6-4 290 McGill Charlie Baillie
1993 Mike O'Shea LB 6-3 225 Guelph Dan McNally
1992 Chris Morris OL 6-6 285 Toronto Bob Laycoe
1991 Paul Vajda OL 6-2 265 Concordia Pat Sheahan
1990 Chris Gioskos OL 6-3 275 Ottawa Jim Daley
1989 Leroy Blugh LB 6-2 230 Bishop's Ian Breck
1988 Pierre Vercheval OL 6-2 272 Western Larry Haylor
1987 Louie Godry OL 6-1 240 Guelph Dan McNally
1986 Mike Schad OL 6-5 294 Queen's Doug Hargreaves
BREAKDOWN OF CIS PLAYERS IN THE EAST-WEST SHRINE GAME
Offensive line 33
Defensive line 18
Running backs 2
Simon Fraser 1
Wilfrid Laurier 1