Every young football player with a dream looks up to someone and the prospects in the 2023 CFL Draft each have their own unique source of inspiration.
For most, it’s an NFL or CFL star they watched light up their television screens growing up. The more sentimental members of the group might cite a close family member; a father, uncle, cousin, or older brother who paved the way in the sport. But you can guarantee that only one player will credit Michael Bohan as the reason they fell in love with the game.
The Tantramar Regional High School star played five years for Mount Allison University from 2012 to 2016, amassing 126 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two sacks and four interceptions in 38 collegiate games as a defensive back. The whole time he was being watched by another local youngster, Lucas Cormier, who wanted to be just like him.
“He was the guy the whole town was talking about,” Cormier recalled in an interview with 3DownNation. “Watching him and what he did with the Mounties, having a really successful career, it was something I really wanted to be able to accomplish.”
U Sports football may not be the behemoth that the NCAA is south of the border but in the tiny New Brunswick town of Sackville, it still matters. The Mounties have averaged roughly 1,500 in per game attendance over the past five seasons, an impressive contingent considering the local population barely exceeds 6,000 people.
Growing up, Cormier rarely missed a game and has come to admire his community for its special connection to the sport.
“When I was really young going to games, it was more so the atmosphere. At the time, I didn’t even fully understand the sport, I was just one of those kids that was playing with their friends in the endzone,” he grinned. “I think the atmosphere that we create in such a small town is a big deal. The percentage of the town that goes out to games is significantly high. It definitely made me appreciate how passionate our town is about football.”
Inspired by Bohan, Cormier followed the same path — first Tantramar, then Mount Allison as a defensive back. He was even coached by his idol as a youngster with Team New Brunswick and the two developed a rapport. Now, he is on the precipice of doing something that his inspiration never could.
Injuries forced Bohan to bow out instead of chasing pro football opportunities, but Cormier has garnered serious attention from CFL scouts. At six-foot-one and 205 pounds with intriguing ball skills, there is a growing buzz that he could be the first defensive back off the board on draft day.
Still, the promising young safety pushed back when asked about exceeding the accomplishments of the man who inspired him.
“I don’t know that I would say I’ve surpassed him but I’m carrying on his legacy, I think that’s a good way to put it,” Cormier said of Bohan. “He’s shown me a fair amount of knowledge in the game and he’s taught me a lot and I feel like I’ve made him proud.”
The step up to the CFL will be a large one for the 21-year-old, moving him away from Sackville for the first time in his life. Despite offers from schools across the country, he chose to go to school locally to remain close to his family. His time at Mount Allison has matured him and he now eagerly awaits the chance to venture further afield.
“I think it’d be really cool to go to a place like Toronto or B.C., really anywhere that’s a big city,” Cormier said, beaming with anticipation. “Coming from a small town, I’d like to experience city life a little bit regardless of what province. I think getting away from the Maritimes for at least a couple of years will be good for me.”
For any team concerned that the adjustment might be too much, the youngster ticked off a major box at the CFL Combine. He excelled during the on-field sessions but stuck out like a sore thumb due to his bright yellow helmet, which bore no insignia.
The reason was a luggage mix-up, which caused Cormier to show up in Edmonton without any of his equipment. He borrowed cleats and was granted a loaned helmet and shoulder pads from the Edmonton Elks. Throughout the turmoil, he looked utterly unaffected and continued to shine on the field.
“When I took off out of Moncton, the power was out at the airport, so I think that was red flag number one,” he chuckled.
“It was more so just getting past that mentality of frustration with not having my stuff. At the end of the day, once you step on the field, it is what it is. Moving to the next level, I’m not going to take the pads that I already have.”
While it was a nice indication of his ability to handle adversity, teams around the league were already high on the safety prospect going into the event. An AUS all-star in all three seasons he played for the Mounties, he was credited with 74.5 tackles, six tackles for loss and a whopping nine interceptions in just 21 career games.
That Cormier is expected to be drafted in the first few rounds is a true testament to how much scouts love his intelligence and playmaking ability, particularly coming from a smaller program like Mount Allison. Players hailing from the AUS often face a stigma due to the weaker competition in the chronically underfunded conference, though elite players still emerge from Atlantic Canada every year.
“A lot of people talk about the lack of depth in the AUS but you look across the board at who’s showing up here at the Combine — guys like Jake Kelly, Reece Martin, Alex Fedchun — there’s a lot of really good talent here,” Cormier pointed out. “It’s not fair to talk down on guys coming from the AUS.”
With his selection on Tuesday, he can become one of just a handful of born-and-bred Maritimers on CFL rosters. That’s a badge that he wears with pride, seeing himself as a reflection of the province as a whole.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” he said. “Playing with Football New Brunswick and up through that system, I feel like I’ve made the province proud and I feel like I’ve represented it well.”
Of course, no one knows better than Cormier just how important a hometown hero can be for the next generation of players. After setting a new benchmark for success, there is no telling what the kids who watched him play at Alumni Stadium will go on to achieve.