The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have signed Canadian offensive lineman Asotui Eli to a three-year deal, after he did not play in 2022.
The six-foot-four, 326-pound blocker was selected by the Bombers with the 34th overall pick in the fourth round of the 2019 CFL Draft and appeared in five games in his first season. He returned in 2021 to play a key rotational role along Winnipeg’s offensive line, dressing for 14 regular season games and starting four, while also playing in the West Final.
The 26-year-old was unable to travel to Hamilton for the team’s victory in the 108th Grey Cup due to restrictions on unvaccinated travellers and was placed on the Bombers’ suspended list. He did not sign with any team after hitting free agency last February, sitting out the 2022 season.
Born in Richmond, B.C. but raised in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, Eli played three seasons with the University of Hawai’i. He appeared in 36 career games with the Rainbow Warriors and was twice named to the preseason Rimington Award watch list as the top centre in NCAA football.
Eli missed the entirety of the 2018 season with a knee injury but was lured to the CFL by Blue Bombers’ assistant GM and director of U.S. scouting Danny McManus, with whom he has a family connection.