2024 CFL Draft profiles: George Una ready for pro ranks after helping turn around Windsor Lancers

Photo courtesy: Seyran Mammadov/Windsor

George Una walked on at the University of Windsor in 2018 when the team was still a perennial bottom-feeder in Ontario University Athletics (OUA).

The Lancers won only one regular season game the year before he joined, a trend that continued during his first two seasons in blue and gold. The program started to improve after Jean-Paul Circelli was hired as the team’s head coach ahead of the 2019 season but it wasn’t until 2023 that the club finished the regular season with a 6-2 record and won its first home playoff game since 1975.

“J.P. came around and he started preaching a lot about love, family, and just being there for one another. It wasn’t just football right away, so once we started changing the culture and the core and the traditions around the program, the right people started to come in,” Una recently told 3DownNation.

“We started to get the right players and then things started to slowly turn around. It was a great experience being there at the start when we weren’t really winning to the end where we started expecting to win a lot of those big games against other big teams, so being a part of that transition was really great.”

A lot of Windsor’s success this past season came along the ground as the team boasted the fourth-ranked rushing attack in all of U Sports as Christopher John, Joey Zorn, Weabge Mombo, and Liam Talbot rotated in the backfield. Una was one of three Windsor offensive linemen to attend the recent CFL Combine in Winnipeg alongside Owen Mueller and Jaxon Morkin, which was a testament to the club’s blocking up front.

“We had a really good offensive line but on top of that we had a really good backfield. We had four running backs who I think could start on any other OUA team, so it was a really good combination, which is why the run game worked so well last year,” said Una. “The season ended a bit shorter than we expected but the run game was definitely something that was nationally recognized, so that was a great feeling as well.”

Though he was part of a run-heavy offence with the Lancers, Una sees himself as more of a pass blocker, which should be music to the ears of CFL talent evaluators. The CFL is a passing league and pass protection is a skill that generally takes offensive linemen longer to develop than blocking in the run game.

“I feel like pass blocking is one of my strengths, especially one-on-one. I like being one-on-one on an island with a tackle or an end or whoever it might be,” he said. “You’re kind of in a telephone booth and it’s a race to see who’s gonna counter the first two moves. I really like that style, that concept — being in the mind game with the guy you’re going against.”

The six-foot-two, 313-pound blocker was one of the top testers among the 13 offensive linemen at the talent showcase in Winnipeg, finishing second in the three-cone drill and shuttle, third in the forty-yard dash, fourth in the vertical jump and broad jump, and tied for fifth in the bench press. He credited teammates Mueller and Morkin for helping him prepare and guide him through the week as the trio met to discuss practices, meetings, interviews, and share tips.

Depending on where you look online, Una is listed as having one of two different first names. He explained the backstory of his identity, which stems from his background as the son of Nigerian immigrants.

“There’s a lot of cultural richness in Nigeria and there’s a lot of tribes. My tribal name — my traditional name — is Anu Una. When I’m in Nigeria, when I’m home, all my close friends call me Anu,” he said. “Ideally, I like for my teammates and people close around me to call me Anu, but in formal professional settings, George is just easier. Then, when I get into a certain (CFL) building, then I can start preferring to be called Anu.”

The offensive line is arguably the strongest position in this year’s draft, though a number of players are expected to get NFL opportunities, which will lower their CFL draft stock. Isaiah Adams and Anim Dankwah both attended the recent NFL Combine, while Kyle Hergel, Theo Benedet, and Giovanni Manu tested very well at their recent pro days.

Una projects as a potential first-round selection, which is a testament to the work he’s put in after starting his collegiate career as a walk-on at a struggling program. Though he’s excited about being a high draft pick, he’s trying to stay focused on ensuring that he ends up being a great fit for the team that selects him.

“That’s a really great spot for me in the first round. I never really saw myself going in the first round — I thought I’d be an early-round pick for sure, but I think with a whole bunch of the NFL talents, it’s gonna really depend on where those guys go, too,” he said.

“At the end of the day, I’m really just trying to find the team that’s a great fit for me. Wherever I get picked, whether it’s the first round or the last pick, just getting that opportunity of being drafted and getting the chance to go prove myself is really what I’m looking for.”

The 2024 CFL Draft is scheduled for Tuesday, April 30.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.