Dakoda Shepley: For the love of football in 2020

Photo courtesy: CFL

Football is all about getting on the field. From the start of a young player’s career, their motivation is based on impressing the coaches enough to earn time on the field.

When you haven’t played up to the standard, you don’t earn playing time. Simple as that.

But what if there is absolutely nothing you can do to earn playing time? What if you spend eight months grinding in the gym, the recovery room and spending all your free time and money on improving yourself and nothing comes of it?

“It cut deep when you grind and don’t touch the field” – Don “Don Jayy” Jackson, Hamilton Tiger-Cats RB.

For obvious reasons, the 2020 CFL season has been ripped from our hands, despite so many players feeling like they had an iron grip on this season. Since the emergence of COVID-19 and its devastation of the global sports community, the Canadian Football League and its Players’ Association worked hard to explore every avenue that could lead to football being played in 2020.

I know the players appreciate this — I certainly do — but the cancellation of the 2020 has come about.

So now what?

Thankfully for the CFLPA and the Canadian government, there are subsidy programs that will take care of players and their families until 2021. But what about football? The CFLPA has done an amazing job making sure players in our league have the option to play football in 2020, if they have a window to do so.

Along with a handful of players in the CFL, I’m blessed to have been shown interest by the National Football League. It’s an opportunity that any football player would jump at, regardless of the pandemic and the circumstances it’s presented us with up until now.

I’ve put in the work all off-season and to not do everything I can to play football at the end of it would be a disservice to myself. For that reason, I’m deciding to opt out of my 2020 contract and exercise my option to try my hand at the opportunity to play the sport I’ve dedicated myself to.

Today, after much deliberation with close friends and family, I’ve decided to exercise the opt out clause that was put in place by the CFLPA this past weekend. I understand that I signed a contract binding me to Rider Nation through 2021, however, I feel as an athlete nearing the prime years of my career, it is in my best interest to play football by any means in 2020.

That’s what I’ve been preparing for since December. That’s what I am going to see through any way I can. Thank you to the Roughriders organization, the CFL and the CFLPA for understanding the predicament that 2020 has thrown at us and finding a way for players like myself to find an opportunity to play football this fall.

I love Saskatchewan, I love the unmatched connection I have with our fan base and I love and thank my teammates for their understanding through everything.

Thank you to the CFL, its teams and the CFLPA for understanding that we the players are starving for football and giving us this option just may quench that.