It’s back-to-school time across the country and that means only one thing: the return of university football.
U Sports teams in the Maritimes, Quebec, and Ontario are scheduled to kick off the 2022 season on August 27, with Western Canada joining in the action starting September 2. For the first time since 2019, teams will compete in a full eight-game schedule as they quest to capture the 57th Vanier Cup in November.
College football is big business south of the border but university athletics in Canada is often treated as little more than an afterthought by both students and the general public. For the savvy consumer, however, it offers a chance to see the football stars of tomorrow at rock-bottom prices.
In honour of U Sports kick-off weekend, 3DownNation is going conference-by-conference to unveil the greatest alumni every school has sent to the professional ranks. This list is limited to the modern era — leather helmets need not apply — and based on their accomplishments at the CFL or NFL level only, not collegiate accolades.
From CFL all-stars to NFL Pro Bowlers, Lou Marsh award winners to Hall of Famers, some truly legendary athletes have graced Canadian campuses. On Monday, we showed you the best from the AUS. Now we head to La Belle Province for the brightest stars in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec.
Concordia Stingers: Rocco Romano, Offensive Line
After being drafted by the Stampeders in 1987, Romano bounced around to Toronto, Ottawa and B.C. before landing back in Calgary for the best stretch of his 14-year CFL career. Able to play guard or tackle, the former Stinger was a five-time all-star and two-time West Division nominee for Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman, earning Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2007.
Honourable mentions: K Rene Paredes, P Burke Dales, OL Kristian Matte, LB Cory Greenwood
Laval Rouge et Or: Antony Auclair, Tight End
The Rouge et Or have been the most dominant team in U Sports this century but their best professional products tend to toil doing the dirty work. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of that than Auclair, who has just 15 career catches for 131 yards and one touchdown entering his sixth NFL season. Nonetheless, the Super Bowl LV champion has established himself as an extremely valuable blocker first with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and now with the Houston Texans.
Honourable mentions: OL Luc Brodeur-Jourdain, FB Mathieu Bertrand, OL Dominic Picard, FB Patrick Lavoie
McGill Redbirds: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Offensive Line
The first doctor of medicine to actively play in the NFL has dressed for 68 games and started 64 since the Kansas City Chiefs drafted him in the sixth round back in 2014. Duvernay-Tardif won a Super Bowl in 2019 and has since elevated himself into a rarified air that transcends football. His decision to opt-out of the 2020 NFL season to assist with COVID relief at a Quebec long-term care facility earned him the Lou Marsh Trophy and Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year. After finishing last season with the New York Jets, Duvernay-Tardif has put his NFL career on hold once again while he completes his medical residency.
Honourable mentions: LS Randy Chevrier, DB Joe Poirier, LS J.P. Darche, OL Val St. Germain
Montreal Carabins: Antoine Pruneau, Defensive Back
Known as the original Redblack, Pruneau jumped from the Carabins to CFL stardom with relative ease. The fourth overall pick in the 2014 CFL Draft was Ottawa’s top rookie that year and has been one of the league’s best safeties over the past eight seasons, taking home all-star honours in 2017. At 32, he’s no longer a full-time starter but remains a demon on special teams.
Honourable mentions: DB Marc-Olivier Brouillette, DE David Menard, RB Sean Thomas-Erlington, OL David Foucault
Sherbrooke Vert et Or: Samuel Giguere, Receiver
There aren’t any real stars on Sherbrooke’s alumni list but Giguere’s absurd pre-draft hype makes him the closest. A legendary CFL Combine performance saw him drafted eighth overall in 2008 but the NFL came knocking and he spent four seasons on the fringes of the roster with the Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants. Giguere finally returned north in 2012 and played seven seasons with Hamilton, Montreal and Edmonton, recording 207 catches for 2,506 yards and 13 touchdowns, 35 carries for 178 yards and four majors, in addition to more than a thousand return yards.
Honourable mentions: LB Pierre-Luc Labbé, LB Nicolas Boulay, FB William Langlais, FB Alexandre Gagne