2024 CFL draft profiles: Ben Labrosse looking to prove loyalty after spotty collegiate career

Photo courtesy: Joe Pimentel/McGill Athletics

The top defensive back available in this year’s CFL draft checks all the boxes from an athletic standpoint, though some scouts have questions about the way in which he navigated his collegiate career.

Ben Labrosse committed to Syracuse University following a three-year stint at Vanier College in 2020 and dressed for nine games as a freshman, contributing at safety, nickel cornerback, and on special teams. Things changed the following year when he left the team after a season-opening win over Ohio University, a decision he’s since come to regret.

“There were a couple of different reasons why I didn’t stick with the Orange, but ultimately I just didn’t feel like it was the right place for me. I was a little bit more in my head at the time. I wasn’t getting the playing time that I wanted. It was my first time facing adversity a bit and looking back on it, I should have stuck it out,” Labrosse told 3DownNation.

“I just wanted to get on the field more, so I was a bit stubborn-minded at the time. Looking back, I definitely could have done it differently. … I’ve learned a lot since then because after that I was away from football for a while. I did do a lot of thinking, so my perspective on everything has definitely shifted quite a bit since that time.”

The native of Greenfield Park, Que. committed to McGill University in 2022 and was the only player on the team to earn a first-team U Sports All-Canadian selection. Though he had a positive experience playing for the Redbirds, Labrosse indicated there were “behind-the-scenes complications” with academics that led him not to return to the team in 2023.

“I’m not gonna get too deep into it, but it was to do with school. I wasn’t super interested in what they had me in and ultimately, my goal then was just to play professional football, so I decided to just take the season off and train rather than doing essentially night school courses that I wasn’t interested in.”

Labrosse finished his collegiate career with only 19 games played, 10 of which came during his freshman season at Syracuse in 2020. Some teams might view Labrosse’s inability to stick with two different programs as a red flag, but he’s hoping to prove that he’s ready to stick at the professional level.

“One could definitely interpret it in that way but the way I see it, I was loyal to my city football program for 12 years, then after that I was loyal to (Cégep) Vanier for three years. Again, my perspective on it has shifted. I wouldn’t see it personally as an issue, but other people could give their own view on it,” said Labrosse.

“I’m loyal to the program when I’m there. I didn’t miss any meetings, I was always there, I was always on time. You can see it how you want but ultimately the only thing I could do is prove to (my next team) that (me having character issues is) not the case.”

The six-foot, 190-pound defender looked rusty at times in drills at the recent CFL Combine, though there’s no questioning his athleticism. He was one of the top testers at the event, winning the broad jump with a leap of 134 inches. He also tied for first with a 4.51-second forty-yard dash and finished second in the vertical jump with a leap of 38.5 inches.

Labrosse is also possibly the most versatile player in this year’s draft class. He played special teams, safety, and nickel cornerback at Syracuse and cornerback at McGill. He believes he can play all six positions in the secondary at the CFL level, though he also expects to play extensively on special teams.

“I like corner — it’s one of my favourite positions to play — but I see myself as a halfback as well, I could be good coverage. I also see myself playing in the box,” said Labrosse.

“I did pretty well on special teams throughout my whole career. I can definitely get in there and make a difference on special teams right off the bat (in the CFL) whether you’re sticking me on the gunner on punt, you’re putting me at gunner, I’m the fallback guy on kickoff or even right in the middle going nose to the ball on kickoff. I’ve also returned a lot of kicks. I love returning and I think I’m a great returner, so I think a lot of positions on special teams I could fill a role.”

The 24-year-old will likely be the first defensive back off the board when this year’s CFL draft gets underway, potentially going in the first round. Regardless of where he ends up, Labrosse will look to prove that he’s in it for the long haul at the professional level.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.