One of the best Canadian offensive line prospects in the 2017 CFL Draft almost wasn’t a Canadian at all.
Florida native Dariusz Bladek was in his junior season at Bethune-Cookman University when he caught the eye of the Calgary Stampeders. As they discussed the details on a potential contract, Bladek mentioned casually that his mother Joyce had been born in Canada. That would make him eligible for dual citizenship and allow him to play in the CFL as a national.
“Calgary said if you’re a national if would be better,” Bladek said. “That’s when we looked into it more.”
Bladek elected to forego his senior season, after winning the Larry Little Offensive Lineman of the Year award, and declare for the NFL Draft. He went unselected but received multiple rookie mini-camp invites. When no NFL teams offered a contract, Bladek and agents Glen Lansky and Fred Weinrauch began the citizenship process.
Due to the time it took to complete all official paperwork, he missed the deadline to be included in both the regular 2016 CFL Draft and the supplemental version a month later – “a heartbreaker,” Bladek says – but he’s been added to the list of players eligible for the 2017 pick-fest.
Since then his days have been packed working long nights – sometimes 13 hours – renovating restaurants with his dad, coaching football at Poinciana high school and working out twice a day with a focus on impressing scouts at the National CFL Combine in Regina this coming March.
That will be the first time Bladek steps foot on Canadian soil. His mom was adopted after being born in Montreal and moved to New Jersey as a child. She met a Polish man named Bogdan, Bladek’s dad, and gave birth to two boys and one girl. It wasn’t until the family moved to Florida that he took up football, he played mainly hockey and basketball during his childhood time in New Jersey.
Poinciana High School allowed Bladek the opportunity to develop as an offensive lineman and garner interest from a number of NCAA football programs: Indiana, Colorado State, Ohio and a host of Florida schools. Just when he was about to decide on joining the Bobcats at Ohio University his younger brother Jozef told him he wanted Bladek to stay close to home. So Bladek chose Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida, which is a two-hour drive from Poinciana.
Jozef was at every game Bladek played for the Wildcats and when the offensive lineman comes north to play professionally his brother wants to join him.
“Trust me when I go up to Canada, my brother is going to graduate high school this year and he wants to go to college, he wants to get his dual citizenship so he can come up to Canada and go to college where I’m playing,” Bladek says. “He literally means the world to me – I’m a big family guy.”
Bladek, his brother, along with family and friends watched the Ottawa Redblacks win the 2016 Grey Cup. He’s watched CFL football in the past following former Bethune-Cookman teammates.
“Jhomo Gordon was with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Eddie Poole was with the Ottawa Redblacks in 2014,” Bladek says. “I know the game speed is a little bit faster, the field is a little bit bigger, it’s a pass friendly league, so I have to be quicker on my feet, which is no big deal.”
The six-foot-four, 308-pounder has been researching Canadian cities and studying the three-down brand of football.
Meanwhile, CFL scouts are doing the same with Bladek. Reviewing game film and evaluating the offensive lineman. There is already buzz that he could be a top round pick.
“I can see it. He’s got size, length and a mean streak in him,” a CFL scout says. “More than held his own against some top NCAA Division I talent [Miami and Florida State].”