Beijing-bound Rider Jacob Dearborn hoping to enjoy Olympic experience

Photo courtesy: Carleton Ravens

Jacob Dearborn is a professional football player about to head to his first Olympic games and he still isn’t living his childhood dream.

“I wanted to play hockey,” the bobsledding defensive back laughed to host Derek Taylor on the SportsCage in Regina. “I wanted to play in the World Junior’s tournament.”

I guess sometimes you just have to settle for the next best option.

After a break-out second season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders that saw him make a pair of starts at the almost exclusively American SAM linebacker position, Dearborn will soon be boarding a plane to Beijing after being selected as a member of Canada’s third bobsleigh team at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Of course, becoming an Olympic athlete in the bobsleigh couldn’t have been Dearborn’s childhood dream, as he only recently picked up the sport.

“It’s pretty exciting. It’s not something I thought I’d be,” Dearborn admitted. “It’s not somewhere I thought I’d see myself.”

He first toyed with the idea back in 2019, after being released from the Riders due to a calf injury in training camp of his rookie season. That idea waput on ice when the team brought him back five weeks later, but the canceled 2020 CFL season allowed him to explore it fully. He made his very first bobsleigh run in March of 2020 and less than two years later, he’s an Olympian.

In the meantime, he’s played eight CFL games, recording 18 defensive tackles, two special teams tackles, and two interceptions. With similar body types and skillsets required for both sports, juggling the two was not an issue.

“The Riders were pretty good about allowing me to sort of keep both going, especially in season. I talked to the coaches before coming out to Sask that it was an Olympic year and that I had this opportunity ahead of me that I was hoping to sort of keep open,” Dearborn explained.

“My bye weeks I spent out in Calgary, which is where the home base is for the bobsleigh team and they have an indoor facility there where we can practice our pushing on the ice. They were great about allowing me to sort of keep this kind of in the background, keep the door open while I was playing football.”

When the Riders’ season ended in a devastating West Final loss to the eventual Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Dearborn was afforded very little time to mourn.

“After the football season ended, it was a pretty quick turnaround to get me down to Lake Placid. We lost that game on the Sunday night and then by like Tuesday or Wednesday morning, I was flying back to Ottawa,” he said. “My mom and my brother met me with a car at the airport and then I drove straight down to Lake Placid to meet the team that was down there competing.”

From there the focus was on Olympic qualification, with Dearborn becoming the latest CFL star to head to an Games with the bobsleigh squad. Two-time world championship medalist Jesse Lumsden is the most high profile convert, but Dearborn will be joined in Beijing by two others, retired receiver Sam Giguere and running back Shaquille Murray-Lawrence.

Each of the three made a name for themselves in the CFL thanks to their explosive athletic traits. Dearborn currently holds the CFL combine record in the broad jump at eleven-foot and two inches, while also posting a 42 inch vertical.

The former undrafted free agent out of Carleton University and Holland College in PEI is set to hit the open market on February 8 and intends to continue his CFL career so long as he can double-dip with both sports. Leaving for Beijing on January 26 and competing starting on February 19, Dearborn’s focus isn’t on a new contract however. It’s on soaking up the Olympic experience.

“Right now, I don’t have a ton of nerves about competition, but I’m super excited just to get to the athlete village and the opening ceremonies and be able to experience all those things that as a kid you’re watching on TV and it’s just magical and it’s exciting. Now I’m gonna be there in person,” Dearborn said.

“It’s going to ramp up in terms of intensity and nerves and things like that, but I’m hoping that as those things sort of ramp up, I’m still able to appreciate and enjoy what’s going on around me and where I am.”