Randy Colling found his calling as a Canadian after a rule change and knowledge from a current Arena league head coach with Canadian Football League scouting experience.
Five years after graduating from Gannon University the 26-year-old defensive lineman has obtained Canadian Citizenship and been added to the 2017 CFL draft class. When Colling finished his senior season with the Golden Knights he would not have been considered a non-import under the collective bargaining agreement at the time. But in May 2014, when the CBA changed and allowed Canadian Citizens to qualify as nationals that changed the dynamic for Colling. However, it took recognition from Cleveland Gladiators head coach Ron Selesky, who was a U.S. scout with the Saskatchewan Roughriders that found linebacker Jeff Knox Jr. in 2015, to start the process for Colling.
“I didn’t know he could qualify as a Canadian until he told me that his dad was born in Canada. I remembered seeing the article about how [Garrett] Waggoner got his Canadian Citizenship and they had contacted the Minister of Sport up there and got their process expedited. As soon as Randy told me the light went on: ‘Waggoner.’ I used that as a blueprint,” Selesky says. “If I would’ve known earlier that his dad had been born in Canada we could’ve jumped on it a lot earlier. When we first got him he had just turned 23.”
Colling’s father and grandfather, Kirby and Ken, were born in Hamilton, grew up Ticats fans. Kirby taught his son the “Oskee Wee Wee” chant, still wears a Ticats winter coat and owns a Darren Flutie jersey among others, even after he moved to Buffalo as a teenager.
“I remember visiting Hamilton when I was 12 years old because my dad wanted to show me where he grew up. He told me about the Tiger-Cats and we went to the team shop where I got some gear,” Colling recalls.
Although, that didn’t help Colling’s citizenship process speed up. It took over a year for the final paperwork to be done, which came three days after the deadline to qualify for the 2016 CFL supplemental draft.
“My Cleveland teammate Brian Brikowski, who played for the Montreal Alouettes [2014-2015], he was telling me how much of a difference it would make in me getting my Canadian citizenship,” Colling, eligible for the 2017 CFL pick-fest, says. “You can make more money and have a lot longer career.”
Back in 2011, the defensive lineman finished his senior season at Gannon University with 88 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 11 games. He was a Gene Upshaw NCAA Division II Lineman of the Year award finalist. After going unselected in the NFL draft that year, Giants and Jets mini-camps didn’t yield a contract, Colling signed with the Gladiators and played there for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. For 2014 he signed a futures contract with the Bills in January that year, but he was released in May after Buffalo tried to turn him into an offensive lineman.
“Where I came out of college, Gannon University, no player had ever signed an NFL deal. One guy before me went to a mini-camp but never signed a deal,” Colling says.
After that, it was back to Cleveland where Colling continued to develop into an elite Arena league defensive lineman. Last year for the Gladiators he registered 19.5 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 16 games, which earned him All-Arena defensive first team accolades. And he was an emergency offensive lineman too.
“He’s got the ability to go up there and dominate – incredible first step. He’s got all this experience and he’s only 26 years old. He’s got several good years in front of him,” Selesky says. “The biggest adjustment for him initially is just going to be getting over the shock of when he walks out onto the field. He’s going from playing on the smallest football field to the biggest one. Four of our game fields fit on one NFL game field, so take that and then add the extra length, width and end zones up in the CFL.”
Three CFL teams have called Selesky to get information on the intriguing defensive lineman. Meanwhile, Colling has spoken with every team across the three-down league.
“Big, active and can play all the positions along the defensive line,” one CFL scouts says. “He needs to lose weight for our game, but his size, rush ability, toughness and versatility will be an asset to any team.”
Often the CFL takes shots for the minimum salary checking in at $52,000 for an 18 game season, but it’s a substantial jump for a player like Colling who would make around $15,600 in an AFL season ($975 per game approximately).
Colling’s looking forward to the pay bump and challenge, the three-down game presents, but he’s got a jump in terms of knowing what it’s like to take down a CFL quarterback.
“I played against Trevor Harris [Edinboro University] in college,” Colling says. “Trevor was a few years older than me, but I remember getting him a few times.”