Alex Singleton: the best Canadian linebacker you’ve never heard about

The best Canadian linebacker available in the CFL Draft is training with the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Von Miller and Clay Matthews.

Alex Singleton was born and raised in Thousand Oaks, California but because his mother was in born in Toronto, he’s recently become a dual citizen and thereby qualifies as a national in the Canadian Football League.

But it almost didn’t happen.

After earning a scholarship to Montana State University and developing into one of the best linebackers in the Big Sky conference, the six-foot-two, 235 lbs. tackler was on track for a career in pro football. As he was preparing for his Montana State Pro Day last February, his agent, Bill Lower, asked what he thought about the CFL and if he would considering playing in the league. The 22-year-old linebacker responded by saying that his mom was Canadian.

“That’s when it took off,” Singleton says.

By that time Singleton knew the Ottawa Redblacks had stashed him on their negotiation list, which gave the team his exclusive rights, but only as an international. And even with the citizenship process underway, his focus was squarely on making the NFL.

 The 2015 NFL Draft came and went without Singleton hearing his name called, although he signed a contract with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent. He made it past the first cut and all the way through training camp with Seattle. However, when the team whittled the roster down to the final 53 players, he was cut. The Patriots signed Singleton that day, but he was released on Sept. 15.

Singleton returned home and continued to keep in football shape while working out for a number of different NFL teams until around American Thanksgiving. During that time, Ottawa was calling to see if he would sign in the nation’s capital. Redblacks’ assistant general manager, Brock Sunderland told Lower – the two men are both from Montana – that Singleton could be a starter as an import.

“They wanted me to say yes before I got my Canadian citizenship and had to go through the CFL draft so that I would be an international player,” Singleton says. “I knew if I waited until I got my Canadian citizenship that I would be eligible for the Canadian Draft. No matter what, I was going to wait to get my national designation.”

Finally, last October, Singleton’s Canadian citizenship was approved and he was added to the 2016 Canadian Draft list. The eight-month wait was why he missed the 2015 Canadian pick-fest.

“There was a point where Alex was working out for a lot of NFL teams, but they weren’t offering a contract. We thought maybe he should sign with Ottawa,” Lower says. “But it just wasn’t worth losing that ability to be a national player. It’s as good of a backup plan in football as there is.”

Plus, Singleton wanted to exhaust all possible NFL options. He was signed and released by Seattle. Then as he was flying in for a workout with the Falcons, Lower received contract offers from two teams.

“When he touched down at the Atlanta airport and he finally could call me again, I told him he had an offer from Dallas and Minnesota. We talked about it and thought Minnesota would be a good choice with Vikings’ head coach Mike Zimmer being a defensive-minded guy,” Lower explains.

“That was one of the stressful situations where we had to get on the same page fast. I said, “Don’t get in the car with the Falcons – get back on the plane.” He went right back through and got on a flight to Minnesota.”

He finished the 2015 NFL season with the Vikings but was released by Minnesota on April 13, making him a free agent. That unfortunate news just might have a positive effect by increasing Singleton’s stock for the Canadian Draft.

Even though Singleton’s already gone through the NFL Draft – and been on NFL teams – he’s still eligible for the CFL Draft.

“I would be open to playing up there. I went to school in Montana, which is pretty much Canada to half of the people in America anyways,” Singleton says with a laugh.

CFL personnel men unanimously view Singleton as the most talented linebacker in the 2016 Canadian talent-grab.

“The top linebacker in the class – if he comes straight to the CFL. He’s got ratio-changing potential with good size – athletic and a sure-tackler,” one CFL scout says.

Current CFL players have been telling Singleton about the level of play in the CFL. Defensive lineman Zach Minter, who’s with the B.C. Lions, played two seasons alongside Singleton at Montana State. And he’s become workout buddies with Bombers’ standout linebacker Khalil Bass.

“They say game-wise the players are just as good as in the NFL. They love the stadiums,” Singleton says. “Khalil now always says you’re lucky because you’re Canadian and they get paid.”

Singleton was invited to the CFL Combine in March, but because he was under contract with Minnesota at the time he could not attend. Vikings’ general manager Rick Spielman gave the go-ahead for the linebacker to do a video conference call, which allowed CFL evaluators to interview Singleton.

“I want to play this game until I can’t play anymore and if it takes me up north – I will go wherever it takes me,” Singleton says.

The American-Canadian continues to prepare for his next football season – wherever that might be – alongside one of the best linebackers on the planet at Proactive Sports Performance in California.

“I was a big USC fan growing up, so I tried to mimic my game after Clay Matthews,” Singleton says. “I have my own style now.”

 Alex Singleton 2015 Montana State Pro Day testing results

 40-yard dash: 4.62
Three-cone: 7.13
Shuttle: 4.19
Broad jump: 10-feet
Vertical leap: 31 inches
225 lbs. bench press: 15 reps
Wingspan: 75 inches

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