Garrett Waggoner is about to become a third-generation CFL player, following both his father and grandfather into the league when he is selected in Wednesday’s supplemental draft. But it took the combined efforts of his mother, his agent, a TV broadcaster with intimate knowledge of the league’s byzantine citizenship rules and Canada’s Minister of Sport to make it happen.
Waggoner’s Canadian roots can be traced back to his late grandfather Hal, who played running back and defensive back for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for seven seasons starting in 1951, winning a Grey Cup in 1957. His father Scott grew up in Burlington and earned a scholarship to the University of Florida before being drafted by the Ticats in 1982.
An ankle injury derailed Scott’s CFL career after just four games and he settled in Sarasota, Florida with wife Holly – she’s a native of the sunshine state – with Hal living in nearby Fort Myers. Garrett was born in 1990 and followed his Dad and grandfather into football, eventually earning a scholarship to Dartmouth College, where he was All-Ivy League first team as a defensive back in his final two seasons.
His play drew the attention of the B.C. Lions, who put him on their negotiation list – a method by which CFL teams commonly lock down American players. He was getting ready to sign his first contract with the team last month when his mom received a message from TSN’s Duane Forde.
“I remember I was sitting on the couch and my mom said, ‘Garrett this CFL analyst just Tweeted me and said to follow him and ‘DM’ him. What’s a DM and how do I follow him?’” Waggoner said. “That was funny.”
Forde, who does colour commentary for CFL games and is the broadcaster’s resident draft expert, had been talking to a scout about Waggoner.
“He mentioned how much he liked this kid and that he was Hal Waggoner’s grandson. I recognized the grandfather’s name just from being around the CFL,” Forde said.
It also got Forde thinking: could Waggoner possibly qualify as a national player, something that would dramatically increase his value to teams around the league?
Though Waggoner was born in the United States, he’s entitled to Canadian citizenship because his father Scott was born here, a practice commonly known as citizenship by first generation descent. In addition, the CFL changed its rules last year to consider any player with Canadian citizenship as a national.
So Waggoner showed his mom how to direct message Forde. Then he called his agent, Fred Weinrauch.
“I told him, ‘Duane Forde said I might be able to qualify for national status, does this mean anything?’” And he said, ‘Definitely, let’s look into it,’” Waggoner said.
Waggoner filled out a citizenship certificate and sent it to immigration officials with a request for urgent processing while Weinrauch emailed the Canadian Minister of Sport, Bal Gosal, to try and expedite the process. Gosal’s office replied to Weinrauch right away asking for Waggoner’s date of birth and courier tracking number so they could locate the documents.
“I thought why not take a shot and ask the Minister to get it done,” Weinrauch explained. “I didn’t expect they would get back to me so fast.”
Less than a week later, a package arrived at Waggoner’s Florida home: he was officially a Canadian citizen.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the Canadian government to take time out of their busy days to look into a case like mine. It was something small to them, but it really meant the world to me and I’m appreciative of that,” Waggoner said.
The official documents were delivered to the CFL and Waggoner had his national status approved. He was then added to the CFL supplemental draft set for Wednesday, in which teams have the option of giving up a pick in next year’s CFL draft in exchange for the rights to an eligible player – in this case Waggoner and CMU defensive back Jarret Chapman. But they can be trumped by a team willing to part with a higher pick in next year’s draft.
Defensive tackle Ted Laurent and receivers Kito Poblah and Johnny Forzani are among the players who entered the CFL through the supplemental draft in recent years.
Over the last 10 days, 6-foot-1, 218 pound Waggoner has worked out for four different CFL teams, including one that flew him to Canada for an up-close look. He’s seen by some as a potential starter as a safety of weak-side linebacker.
Waggoner will follow his dad’s footsteps entering the CFL via a foundation laid by grandfather, Hal: he may not have been born in Canada but his family’s history is here. Now his future is, too.