Offensive lineman Tyler Johnstone could be a big get in the upcoming CFL supplemental draft

Ratio-breaking offensive lineman Tyler Johnstone is about to get his first live look at CFL football in Saskatchewan.

The 25-year-old will be flying up to Regina for a visit with Riders brass and attend the Humboldt Strong game Saturday night when the Montreal Alouettes visit Mosaic Stadium. Johnstone is eligible for the CFL supplemental draft that will take place on July 2 and is expected to fetch a high  – first-round – draft pick.

Johnstone started into football at nine years old, playing “skill” positions until high school when he was shifted to the offensive line. He played left tackle for the Hamilton High School offensive line as part of three straight 5A Arizona state championships for the Huskies, which garnered attention from all Pac-12 universities – Chip Kelly came to his house in Phoenix – and he committed to the University of Oregon – the same class as 2014 Heisman Trophy winner and current Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota.

After adding weight in 2011, Johnstone started all 13 games at left tackle as a redshirt freshman at between 260-280 pounds – the lightest offensive lineman in all of NCAA Division I football – as the Ducks won the Fiesta Bowl. He started all 13 games in 2012 but tore his ACL during Oregon’s 30-7 Alamo Bowl victory against Texas. During the second practice back while preparing for the 2014 season, Johnstone re-tore the same ACL which shelved him for the year, but he travelled to all the games and saw the Ducks lose in the National Champion game to Ohio State that season. Johnstone returned to form in 2015, his senior season, protecting the blind side for Vernon Adams, earning Pac-12 first-team and second-team All-American accolades at left tackle.

Before the knee injuries, Johnstone was viewed as a potential first-round pick in the NFL, but after two years of rehabbing, teams were concerned about his lower body strength. The 25-year-old attended the 2016 NFL Combine where he checked in at six-foot-five, 301 pounds benched 225 pounds for 24 reps, ran a 5.21-second 40-yard dash, 4.60-second shuttle, 7.31-second three-cone, recorded a 30.5-inch vertical, eight foot, six-inch broad jump. Despite those strong testing numbers, Johnstone didn’t get chosen but received three undrafted free agent offers from the Chargers, Broncos and Saints.

“I chose the Chargers because it’s California, they offered the most money and coach Ken Whisenhunt (offensive coordinator) and I go way back – I knew his daughter really well through middle school and high school I used to go over to his house all the time,” Johnstone said.

By all accounts, Johnstone was performing well enough in 2015 training camp to earn at least a practice roster spot with the Chargers, then disaster struck. During the third pre-season game, the Chargers just needed a body out on kick-off return, Johnstone went to set the wedge, made a cut off his left foot and felt it break – a stress fracture. He was put on injured reserve all year and released with an injury settlement the following April. Johnstone rehabbed and worked out for the Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints prior to the 2017 season, although, no contract came from either team.

As the NFL season approached the mid-point, Johnstone looked north in October for an opportunity to be back on the field and the Calgary Stampeders held his negotiation list rights. He had nearly made the decision to report to Cowtown but it came up that his dad, Kevin, was born and raised in the city – meaning he was eligible for Canadian citizenship. It took approximately six months for Johnstone – during which he trained with 2016 Most Outstanding Lineman Derek Dennis – to obtain his Canadian status, even with the process expedited, he missed the cut-off date for the regular CFL draft in May, which is why the towering lineman is available in the supplemental draft.

In early June, Johnstone travelled to York University in Toronto for a Wonderlic, 20-minute interview sessions and offensive line-specific workout for seven of the nine teams. Saskatchewan and B.C. were the only teams without scouts there – the Lions are on the West Coast and have seen Johnstone many times while the Riders are bringing him in for a personal visit.

“Johnstone looked good, in shape – athletic and long tackle,” one scout in attendance said.

“He’s the best, most experienced Canadian prospect with tackle position-specific skills to come about in a long time,” one personnel man said.

Johnstone will soon put his abilities into action for the CFL team that secures him in the supplemental draft, but he won’t report until after his wedding in Portland, Oregon, putting off his honeymoon with wife-to-be Ashley Laing.

“We got engaged last June and started planning it right away. We settled on July 7 last July,” Johnstone said.

“It’s been in the process for a while so we couldn’t really switch it after I figured out I was going to Canada.”