Demski could be something special for Riders


One day. One workout. First-round draft pick Nic Demski has already turned heads with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, whose two rookie-camp practices are being held in Regina before the CFL team moves to Saskatoon for an extended training camp.

Demski, a powerful receiver who was a four-time all-Canadian at the University of Manitoba, was the sixth overall selection in the 2015 draft. His leaping reception in the opening workout, against fellow rookies, instantly started speculation that Demski would be moving into the Roughriders’ starting lineup. Not so fast!

The Roughriders are looking at Demski as an Andre Durie-type, a slotback/wideout/running back whose multiple talents allow him to play different positions and line up in numerous spots in their offence. He could certainly evolve into a role player while serving as a backup to the starting nationals in Saskatchewan’s receiving corps, veterans Chris Getzlaf and Rob Bagg.

But it’s not likely Demski will step into a starting role because the Roughriders aren’t looking at reincarnating the Canadian Air Force, the nickname of the team’s receiving corps five years ago when fellow Canadian Andy Fantuz was the star of the group.

The last rookie receiver to make a serious impact with the Roughriders was Weston Dressler, a University of North Dakota product who joined the team in 2008. The Roughriders had won the 2007 Grey Cup with an experienced receiving corps that included Yo Murphy, D.J. Flick, Matt Dominguez, Jason French and Corey Grant, but it needed refreshing when then-GM  Eric Tillman brought the tiny speedster to the next year’s training camp.

Right from the first workout, Dressler was impressive. Fast. Serious; boring basically. Studious. Dedicated. Tough. Fearless. Never dropped an easy pass. Made impressive catches. Quiet. Never taunted anybody or showed anyone up. No overblown celebrations. Even the defensive backs were impressed — it’s a safe bet no CFL receiver has been helped off the turf more by rival DBs, who stick out their hands and pull him to his feet, just because they respect his attitude.

Ken Miller, the Roughriders coach when Dressler first donned green and white, was asked the same question every coach gets during rookie camp: “Who impressed you?’’

Miller was known for his honesty.

“Weston Dressler,’’ Miller said, day after day. “He’s special. And he keeps getting better.’’

Dressler was the CFL’s outstanding rookie in 2008, after catching 56 passes for 1,123 yards and six touchdowns. He also returned punts and impressed the fans, who voted him Saskatchewan’s favourite player.

On his first day, Demski was special. Let’s see if he keeps getting better.

Darrell Davis has reported on the Riders for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2006.