2024 CFL Draft profiles: Laval DB Cristophe Beaulieu looks past Western rivalry for brotherly advice

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

When it comes to Canadian university football, there are two unshakeable powerhouses: Laval and Western.

Together, the two iconic programs have combined for 19 Vanier Cup wins and 28 championship appearances. In recent years, the path to victory for each has often crossed through the other, with each claiming multiple titles in the past decade.

In this battleground of U Sports titans, the Beaulieu household in Blaineville, Que. is disputed territory. When Jordan Beaulieu defied local conventions and led a contingent of high-profile Quebec recruits over to the Mustangs, he was rewarded with a Vanier Cup ring in 2017. Still, that success wasn’t enough to sway his younger brother Cristophe when he elected to make the Rouge et Or his colours years later.

“I was considering Western, but it ended up being a gut feeling,” he said in an interview with 3DownNation last month. “I had a lot of good mentors around me and going to Laval paid off with a Vanier Cup and two All-Canadians.”

It was an unofficial pact between the province’s top players that year to chase a Vanier with the local juggernaut which largely made the difference for Cristophe. And just as Jordan knocked off Laval in his title game five years prior, his younger sibling had to lay a beating on Western in the semis to hoist his own trophy in 2022.

Vying for opposing university bragging rights hasn’t been strange for the family. Six years apart in age, Cristophe has been chasing Jordan’s accomplishments from the first time they both stepped on the gridiron — all while keeping him firmly on a pedestal.

“We’re very competitive, me and my brother. I always wanted to beat what he did and when we do something, he’s always trying to beat me because he’s the older brother,” Cristophe explained. “There’s definitely competition, but no rivalry. I enjoyed watching him play at Western and he enjoyed watching me play at Laval.”

Now, the time has come for the younger brother to follow the elder into the pros. Selected in the third round of the 2018 CFL Draft by Edmonton, Jordan spent four seasons in the league with three different franchises and appeared in 40 contests. Currently out of football and working in medical sales, he has become a vital sounding board for Cristophe ahead of his own selection year.

“He’s like my secret agent, you could say,” the younger sibling laughed. “I have my agent, but he’s on the back end helping me make all the right decisions and guiding me on how to do it the right way.”

When all is said and done, the two brothers likely won’t have much separating their draft position. But in a 2024 class that some claim could be the best ever, Beaulieu has become a favourite of scouts and is the consensus number-two defensive back behind the freakishly athletic Ben Labrosse.

That’s simply par for the course when you are a six-foot-two, 198-pound elite U Sports halfback with a championship pedigree. In 29 games over his three seasons as a starter, Beaulieu racked up 84.5 tackles, three tackles for loss, 17 pass breakups, and four interceptions, all while showing the size and athleticism that teams covet on the backend. The result has been All-Canadian recognition in back-to-back seasons, something his brother never accomplished.

He believes that all of that is a credit to his decision to attend Laval, where he has been shaped by the best.

“The program is excellence. The coaches have been there 20 years and they started it. It’s helped me progress,” Beaulieu remarked. “It’s helped me get better as a football player and as a person because they have pretty great mentors. I’m thinking of (Alouettes’ draft pick) Maxym Lavallée who was there when I first got in, (Roughriders’ linebacker) Adam Auclair who was sort of in my surroundings and even (Detroit Lions’ signee) Mathieu Betts.”

It didn’t hurt that the Rouge et Or offered some considerable talent on the other side of the ball either. The defender’s daily challenge in practice was trying to contain fellow top prospect and 2022 Hec Crighton Trophy winner Kevin Mital, as well as other projected draft picks like Frederik Antoine. He insists that he had his fair share of wins in those matchups but admits that if nothing else, they certainly made the games easier.

“It definitely helps,” Beaulieu grinned. “I know how they play and it’s good to compete against them. You have to play against the best so I play against them every day in practice, that’s how I get better.”

Regardless of who he’s been matched up against regularly, the talented cover man is going to have to move around at the next level. Canadian halfbacks are virtually unheard of and most teams project a seamless transition to safety, where his range and physicality won’t be out of place.

For his part, Beaulieu doesn’t much care where he lines up, trusting that he has the tools to succeed at a multitude of positions.

“If they want me to play strong corner, I think I could compete,” he said without a hint of humour. “If it’s nickel, if it’s safety, I’m good with it and I’m confident I can get the job done.”

The 2024 CFL Draft is slated for Tuesday, April 30 at 8:00 p.m. EDT.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.