Game-changing linebacker late add to CFL draft

Cameron Judge has been ruled eligible for the 2017 CFL draft.

The 22-year-old just finished four seasons at UCLA and instantly becomes the top-rated linebacker available. Judge was born north of the border to parents Christopher and Margaret, who met while his dad was trying out for the CFL and officially eligible on April 18 when all franchises across Canada were notified.

“My mom is Canadian. My dad is an actor and he was working on a show up in Montreal and that’s where I was born,” Judge explains. “We moved back to Los Angeles when I was three months old and then when I was three we moved up to Vancouver. I was in between Victoria and Vancouver until I was 12 years old.”

As Judge took a liking to football, which included going to B.C. Lions games as a youngster, his mom felt the exposure for the sport was better in the United States. So before Judge started grade seven the family moved back to California. After a standout career at Oaks Christian high school, Judge earned a scholarship with UCLA in the Pac-12, the same conference where his dad played university football at Oregon as a defensive back from 1982-85.

Every season at UCLA, Judge earned an increased role with the Bruins, becoming the special teams captain, starting games at linebacker in his junior and senior season while serving as the weight room captain too.

“Blue collar, lunch pale type of worker, that’s all he knows,” UCLA’s linebackers and special teams coach Scott White says.

Judge played in 47 games for the Bruins over his UCLA career recording 46 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two passes defended, one forced fumble and one interception while being a special teams ace.

Texas Longhorns wide receiver Marcus Johnson (7) flips over UCLA Bruins linebacker Cameron Judge (4). Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

“He’s going to be a guy that teams fall in love with once you get him because of how he understands and embraces his role,” White says. “At the next level that’s what it becomes: you have to be a star in your role and he’s every bit of that. He’s going to compete, know what to do and execute at a high level.”

White coached four-time CFL all-star linebacker Adam Bighill at Central Washington.

“Cam is every bit as good as Adam who was more of a natural, instinctive player, but physically Cam is better, he’s bigger, faster and more athletic. That’s where they’re most different,” White explains. “Cam has a lot of upside and he’s the better athlete of the two. He could go to the CFL and have a big-time career.”

That said, Judge’s primary focus is making an NFL roster, a number of teams have worked him out and close to a dozen NFL teams have shown interest by reaching out to him. He hopes to hear his name called at the NFL draft. If that doesn’t happen he’ll likely be a priority undrafted free agent signee. Since Judge arrived at UCLA in 2013 five linebackers from the Bruins program have been selected by NFL teams, Anthony Barr (first round 2014), Eric Kendricks (second round 2015) and Myles Jack (second round 2016) most notable among them. That’s a highly talented group Judge has been competing alongside.

“We’ve been contacted by numerous NFL teams who are interested in Cameron. I just talked to an NFL coach last night who said that Cameron’s pro day performance and film is some of the best he’s seen all year,” agent Spiro Pettas says. “We’re excited about the next few days.”

At UCLA’s pro day the 22-year-old measured six-foot-one and weighed 220-pounds then performed, running a 4.50 40-yard time, 6.69 3-cone, 10-foot, one-inch broad jump, 36.5-inch vertical leap and 19 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.

All along while at UCLA, Judge had his Canadian citizenship. He just needed to provide the proper documentation. A CFL scout told Judge to reach out to the league office in order for him to earn national status and become eligible for the CFL draft, which happened quickly once he sent in his passport ensuring a handy backup football option.

“I’m going to tell Cam if he doesn’t get the right opportunity in the NFL go play in the CFL so you can get tape and be on the field,” White, who believes Judge’s best football is ahead of him, says. “I’m going to share my Adam Bighill experience with him and how he parlayed that into an opportunity with the New Orleans Saints.”

Meanwhile, after Judge became a late add to the 2017 CFL draft, Canadian scouts have been evaluating Judge.

“Very athletic,” one three-down league personnel man says. “He will get a first round grade like Alex Singleton last year.”

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.