The Ottawa Redblacks are scheduled to pick 10 times on Tuesday, including at first overall and six times in the first 25 picks, but they won’t be the most important team in the 2023 CFL Draft.
That honour belongs to the Champlain College Lennoxville Cougars, or at least their dominant CEGEP teams of 2015 through 2017. The school is already celebrating alumnus Sidy Sow’s fourth-round selection by the New England Patriots on Saturday and can expect to have a myriad of others join him in pro football.
Playing on those same teams were potential late-round CFL linebackers Alec Poirier of Laval and Brendan Murphy of Western, both of whom have Vanier Cup rings in their possession. They can claim the best non-NFL bound running back in Delaware State’s Thomas Bertrand-Hudon and the draft’s most dominant cornerback in Guelph’s Siriman Harrison Bagayogo.
The latter two attended the CFL Combine in March but were overshadowed by a third Champlain grad, Michael Brodrique. The Montreal linebacker headlines an impressive group of alums and is expected to be the first Cougar off the board on draft day, with most pegging him as a first-round prospect.
“It’s not the fact that we’re all here, but it’s the fact that we all come from the same place. I’m proud to show that I’m from Champlain,” Brodrique said in an interview with 3DownNation.
“My three years at Champlain were the best years I’ve had. From my perspective, we were a powerhouse. I got two Bol d’Ors; my first year we went undefeated, my last year we won the Bol d’Or 36-0. We had an awesome defence, we were running down the field and not stopping.”
Running down the field and not stopping is exactly how CFL teams would describe Brodrique’s game. At six-foot-two and 222 pounds, his 4.59-second forty-yard dash is more than a tenth of a second faster than any other available linebacker. His 4.28-second short shuttle was also tied for the top mark, coupling prototypical size with impressive lateral agility and elite speed.
With those traits, it is no surprise that Brodrique suited up for an RSEQ powerhouse like the Carabins. However, he was originally bound for Concordia to play alongside his older brother. The only thing that prevented him from becoming a difference maker on the Stingers’ defence was an English proficiency exam, which the francophone defender bombed despite going to an anglophone CEGEP.
“Concordia was only accepting me if I passed that exam, so I called Danny Maciocia two days later,” he grinned, referencing the former Carabins head coach turned Alouettes general manager.
“I think we have a great business relationship and I think we can talk about everything.”
Though his academic studies have been in French ever since, Brodrique has worked hard to improve his English in the intervening years. He watches English television and has a group of friends who routinely quiz him in the language, including helping with interview prep for the Combine.
“The goal was for me to be a professional at some point and that’s a skill you have to practice,” he said. “Even in Montreal, the team speaks English, so you have to be ready for that.”
Brodrique’s play on the field requires no translation. He was named a second-team All-Canadian in 2021 after collecting 30 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and a forced fumble in seven games. He followed it up with a second RSEQ all-star campaign in 2022, notching 32 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and a 65-yard pick-six.
That statistical production has come as a direct result of his impressive athleticism, which allows him to make up ground quickly in space.
“One aspect of the game I have is my closing speed. I can get there quicker than some guys and I think that gives me an edge sometimes,” Brodrique said. “I also think I have great vision for the game. I see the blocks set up and I follow them.”
“I’ve told the coaches in my interviews, one-on-one pass situations are my weakness. Even though I have the speed for it, I want to have better technique and improve so I don’t have to always play catch up.”
Scouts believe those traits give the Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac native a chance to start one day in the CFL but his instant impact will come on special teams, where his chiselled build could be a mismatch. That’s a side of the game that Brodrique embraces almost as much as defence.
“For me, special teams are important. I played on punt team even though I was always on the field. Punt, for me, was the bread and butter,” he insisted.
“Since day one when I got to Montreal, the mentality there was you have to be on special teams because if you want to go to the next level, you have to be prepared. We were shown great techniques to get us there.”
With his elementary school teaching degree nearly complete, the 24-year-old will have options beyond football and plans to work actively as a substitute in the offseason. However, he remains focused on success in the CFL and hopes he can be given a legitimate opportunity to see the field on defence.
Even with strong connections to the Alouettes’ staff, he has no preferred destination, only a simple expectation.
“I’m not looking for a place to go. I’m looking for a team that has a plan for me and who plays a Canadian linebacker,” Brodrique stressed. “That’s my goal.”