Last week, the University of Georgia Bulldogs hoisted their first national championship trophy in 41 years, bringing the 2021 college football season to a close.
After a 2020 season in which programs played on vastly different schedules and many opted not to take to the field at all, this year was a return to normalcy across all levels of the NCAA. It also marked the return to action for more than a hundred Canadians in the US college ranks.
Last year, just 79 Canadians were able to participate in a fall football season. This year — counting the heavy Canadian contingent at Burnaby’s Simon Fraser University — there was well over 200 playing across the FBS, FCS, Division 2, and Division 3 levels.
For the third straight year, I’ve tracked every one of those Canadian players all season long with the goal of honouring the very best and brightest with an All-Canadian selection.
This season, the quality of Canadian contributions were so strong that I was able to assemble three full teams of athletes, up from just one a year ago. That didn’t make the selection process any less difficult, but it is important to note that this list is an acknowledgement of excellence in college production. It does not serve as an evaluation or a ranking of these player’s professional prospects, and while level of competition was a consideration, it was not the most important determining factor in selection.
We’ll start today with my All-Canadian selections on offence. Come back tomorrow to find out who earned accolades on the defensive side of the ball.
*indicates a 2021 CFL Draft pick
First Team: Kurtis Rourke, Redshirt Sophomore, Ohio Bobcats (Oakville, ON)
The dream of a Canadian starting quarterback in the CFL rests on the shoulders of Nathan Rourke in B.C., but back in Athens, Ohio his younger brother Kurtis is still setting the standard at the collegiate level.
In his second season as a starter, Rourke completed more than 65 percent of his passes for 1,801 yards, 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Known as more of a pocket passer than his mobile sibling, he also scrambled for 447 yards and three scores in his sophomore year. The result was a 77.1 season grade according to ProFootballFocus, a data analytics firm that evaluates every player on every play in major college football.
Second Team: Marcus Reeb, Sophomore, Minnesota-Morris Cougars [D3] (Toronto, ON)
Third Team: Tyler Grochot, Senior, St. Lawrence Saints [D3] (Ottawa, ON)
First Team: Chase Brown, Redshirt Sophomore, Illinois Fighting Illini (London, ON)
With Chuba Hubbard moving on to the NFL, the role of star Canadian ball carrier in the NCAA was up for grabs and Chase Brown seized it with both hands.
Used as the full-time feature back for the first time in his Illinois career, Brown carried 170 times for 1,005 yards and five touchdowns on his way to third team All-Big Ten honours. 703 of those yards came after contact, with Brown forcing 42 missed tackles, but the highlight of 2021 was his pair of 200-yard performances against Charlotte and Penn State.
Second Team: Fabrice Mukendi, Freshman, Bryant Bulldogs [FCS] (Ottawa, ON)
Third Team: Daniel Adeboboye, Senior, Bryant Bulldogs [FCS] (Toronto, ON)
First Team: John Metchie III, Junior, Alabama Crimson Tide (Brampton, ON)
Few things are ever guaranteed in football, but it was pretty safe to assume that the reigning Jon Cornish Trophy winner would play his way back onto the All-Canadian team.
Metchie did not disappoint, setting career highs with 96 catches for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns before suffering a torn ACL in the SEC Championship that caused him to miss the College Football Playoff. His absence was a factor in Alabama’s eventual loss to Georgia in the National Championship, but they will have to replace him next year as he heads to the NFL as a top draft prospect.
Nick Mardner, Redshirt Junior, Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (Mississauga, ON)
Every team needs a deep threat and the All-Canadian team has one of the best there is in Nick Mardner. With an average depth of target of 18 yards, ProFootballFocus graded Hawaii’s top receiver as the 11th best in the nation on throws more than 20 yards down field.
Mardner had a break-out season in 2021, catching 46 passes for 913 yards and five touchdowns. That attracted attention far beyond the island of O’ahu, as the Canadian entered the transfer portal at the end of the season and will have a new home with the Cincinnati Bearcats next year.
Jared Wayne, Junior, Pitt Panthers (Peterborough, ON)
Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett is expected to be selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, but you don’t reach that status without throwing to some pretty talented receivers.
As the number two target on the Panthers offence, Wayne was a big part of that formula. The son of longtime CFL linebacker Patrick Wayne notched 46 receptions for 658 yards and six touchdowns in a break-out campaign, while also tossing a touchdown pass of his own.
Second Team: Dominic Johnson, Super Senior, Buffalo Bulls (Windsor, ON)* / Samuel Emilus, Senior, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (Montreal, PQ) / Ludovick Choquette [RB/REC], Sophomore, Western Illinois Leathernecks [FCS] (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, PQ)
Third Team: Damien Alford, Freshman, Syracuse Orange (Montreal, PQ) / Keelan White, Redshirt Freshman, Montana Grizzlies [FCS] (North Vancouver, BC) / Kevens Clercius, Redshirt Sophomore, UConn Huskies (Montreal, PQ)
First Team: Theo Johnson, Sophomore, Penn State Nittany Lions (Windsor, ON)
The void left by the graduation of now Arizona Cardinal Bruno Labelle meant that 2021 was always going to be a down year for Canadian tight ends, but Johnson is one of the most promising young prospects this country has to offer.
Still growing into his role with Penn State, the top ranked Canadian in the class of 2020 and younger brother of second team All-Canadian receiver Dominic Johnson still managed 19 catches for 213 yards and a touchdown. Look for him to blossom next season.
Second Team: Scott Fulton, Freshman, Lehigh Mountain Hawks [FCS] (Ottawa, ON)
Third Team: Cole Burniston, Redshirt Junior, Buffalo Bulls (Grimsby, ON)
First Team: Sage Doxtater, Super Senior, New Mexico State Aggies (Oneida Nation of the Thames, ON)*
Drafted 12th overall by the Toronto Argonauts in 2021, Sage Doxtater returned for his final COVID year of eligibility and hoped his six-foot-seven, 350-pound frame would catch NFL eyes.
The results of that gamble remain undecided, but the production he put on the field certainly speaks for itself. In 12 starts at left tackle, Doxtater allowed just 24 total pressures and two sacks on the season, earning a 73.2 grade according to ProFootballFocus.
Matthew Bergeron, Junior, Syracuse Orange (Victoriaville, PQ)
Syracuse has struggled along the offensive line in recent years, but Matthew Bergeron has been the steady hand to turn it all around.
In 12 starts this year, he helped pave the way for the fifth best rushing season in Orange history and the four yards per carry earned off his left tackle spot was the best in the ACC. That saw him receive a 74.6 grade from ProFootballFocus, but where he really excelled was as a pass blocker, allowing just 11 pressures and a single sack all season.
Kyle Hergel, Sophomore, Texas State Bobcats (Toronto, ON)
The conversation for the 2021 Jon Cornish Trophy will likely focus on John Metchie III, Chase Brown, and a handful of defensive stars, but the answer to the question of who the best Canadian in the NCAA is resides in San Marcos, Texas.
A transfer from the University of North Dakota, right guard Kyle Hergel became a foundational piece of the Bobcats in his first season. Head coach Jake Spavital said publicly that the Canadian was “changing the program” and the numbers back it up, as Hergel allowed just nine quarterback pressures in 12 starts last year. According to ProFootballFocus, he was even more successful as a run blocker and earned a 86.2 grade, the highest of any Canadian by a significant margin.
Sidy Sow, Redshirt Senior, Eastern Michigan Eagles (Bromont, PQ)
Offensive linemen are the bread and butter of the CFL Draft and the news that Sidy Sow would be returning to school next year was a devastating blow to the caliber of this 2022 class.
The Eastern Michigan left guard has set an impressive standard of excellence over the past few seasons and this year was no exception. In 13 starts, he allowed 11 pressures and three sacks on his way to first team All-MAC honours and a 78.8 grade from ProFootballFocus, the best season of his already impressive career.
Liam Dobson, Super Senior, Texas State Bobcats (Ottawa, ON)*
The second Texas State transfer portal coup d’état to make this team, Dobson came over from Maine to utilize his final college season despite being selected third overall by Winnipeg in the 2021 CFL Draft.
He didn’t disappoint either, sneakily ensuring this team has three interior linemen by making six starts a piece at both left guard and right tackle. The former member of Bruce Feldman’s highly popular Freaks List allowed 17 pressures over that span and finished with a ProFootballFocus grade of 77.6.
Second Team: Dontae Bull, Redshirt Senior, Fresno State Bulldogs (Victoria, BC) / Deondre Doiron, Redshirt Freshman, Buffalo Bulls (London, ON) / Matthew Derks, Super Senior, Delaware State Hornets [FCS] (Brantford, ON)* / Gabe Wallace, Redshirt Junior, Buffalo Bulls (Salmon Arm, BC) / Matt Krzysztalowicz, Super Senior, Nebraska-Kearney Lopers [D2] (Burlington, ON)
Third Team: Troy Kowal, Redshirt Junior, Minot State Beavers [D2] (High River, AB) / Chris Fournier, Super Senior, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (Ottawa, ON)* / Eric Schon, Sophomore, Holy Cross Crusaders [FCS] (Barrie, ON) / Edouard Paradis, Redshirt Junior, Houston Baptist Huskies [FCS] (Levis, PQ) / Christopher Emslie, Freshman, Fitchburg State Falcons [D3] (Toronto, ON)
First Team: Jake Julien, Super Senior, Eastern Michigan Eagles (Barrie, ON)*
2021 was a down year for Canadian specialists, forcing a reduction to one spot on this All-Canadian team, but that shouldn’t take away from what Julien has been able to accomplish.
Drafted 31st overall by the Ottawa Redblacks last year, Julien returned to Ypsilanti and pounded the football for a net average of 42.3 yards per punt. Pinning opponents inside the twenty on 15 different occasions, he earned himself a 70.1 grade from ProFootballFocus and second team All-MAC honours.
Second Team: Troy Lendvay, Sophomore, Alabama A&M Bulldogs [FCS] (Montreal, PQ)
Third Team: Kristie Elliott, Sophomore, Simon Fraser University [D2] (North Vancouver, BC)
QB Mike Beaudry, Super Senior, Idaho [FCS] (Regina, SK) / QB Christian Veilleux, Freshman, Penn State (Ottawa, ON) / OL Anim Dankwah, Junior, Howard [FCS] (Toronto, ON) / OL Daniel Johnson, Redshirt Junior, Kent State (London, ON) / OL Christopher Fortin, Freshman, UConn (St-Rene, PQ)