Kyle Borsa was expecting good news.
It was November 2018 and the running back was called to the office to speak with the University of Regina Rams head coach Stephen Bryce and athletic director Lisa Robertson. He was excited about the meeting, as he figured they were going to inform him he was going to be named a team captain.
Instead, the news they delivered ended up signalling the end of Borsa’s U Sports career.
The previous month, Borsa was randomly drug tested after a practice. He ended up testing positive for a banned substance called higenamine which got into his system from an over-the-counter supplement. Borsa, who also competed on Regina’s track and field team, was hit with a two-year ban.
"It was such a simple thing. I just wanted energy throughout the day ‘cause we were in classes, team lifts, film study, and then we got practice for two hours before going home and doing homework in between. I was just bagged, honestly," said Borsa in a phone interview from Regina. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers selected the 22-year-old in the fifth round of last week’s CFL Draft.
"So, what I did, I went to a local supplement store in Regina and bought a pre-workout supplement just based off price and what the clerk was telling me. Obviously, where I went wrong was I didn’t look into it or research it or anything like that."
Borsa appealed the decision. He was upfront and honest about what happened, but his suspension was only reduced to 16 months. It ended up not mattering anyway as the 2020 Canada West season was cancelled owing to the pandemic.
Borsa hasn’t played a game in 931 days and counting.
"It was just two years of constantly being let down. Obviously, when I got suspended, that was the hardest part just because I felt like I didn’t really do anything wrong. Well, obviously I did something wrong, but I felt like I wasn’t a cheater by any means and I felt like they were treating me like one, so that was the toughest part… Then the 2020 season, they cancelled that. It was just constant letdowns," he said.
"I stayed true to who I was throughout the whole time and I knew I wanted to play professional football one day. Even if it didn’t work out with me and I didn’t get a shot with a team, I was still able to look myself in the mirror and say I did everything I could and that was good enough for me so that was my thought process."
The Bombers know Borsa has to knock off some rust — as do all the players coming out of the U Sports ranks these days — but general manager Kyle Walters said the Saskatchewan product was "too good to pass up."
Jumping back to 2018, Borsa started the season as Regina’s backup running back but ended up making three starts as the sophomore who was their starter went down with a concussion in Week 1. Despite the limited action, Borsa still managed to finish second in Canada West in both all-purpose yards with 1,340 — the second-most in a single season in school history — and 613 rushing yards.
He also led the conference with six rushing touchdowns and had his best performance of the season against the Manitoba Bisons in Week 5 when he exploded for a career-high 294 all-purpose yards. The suspension didn’t allow him to build off of that success, but he’s been putting in the work during his time away from the gridiron. In the CFL’s virtual combine prior to the draft, Borsa ran a 4.46-second time in the 40-yard dash which was the fastest of any prospect.
He only has three career starts to his name and is coming off an extremely long layoff — two things that don’t exactly scream ‘can’t-miss prospect’ — but Borsa said he’s worth the pick.
"I think my combination of speed and strength is pretty rare to find in Canada," he said. Borsa impressed across the board at the combine as he benched 225 pounds for 22 reps, had a 6.8-second three-cone drill, a 4.0-second shuttle run, and a broad jump of 10 feet 2 1/8 inches.
"I think if you look at the combine numbers and take those into account and the type of player that I am, I think you’ll see that it’s worth taking a chance on a guy like that with that athleticism. And my tape looks exceptional from 2018, so that helps. But yeah, I’d say my speed, strength, and athleticism are why the Bombers are taking a chance on me."
The Bombers are loaded with Canadian running backs, as Andrew Harris, Johnny Augustine, and Brady Oliveira are all still in the fold. The CFL won’t make anything official about 2021 until at least mid-June, but if the season happens and Borsa is in town in mid-July for training camp, the 6-foot, 200-pounder is going to have his work cut out for him to stand out.
"That’s obviously a very elite group of guys that are in the running back room. To be considered worthy to be in there with them, obviously, the Bombers staff sees something in me to put me in there with them. I’m just hoping I can go in there and learn," he said.
"I'm not too worried about who's there right now. It's kind of out of my control so I'm just gonna go there, play my game, and do what I have to do to earn a roster spot." ‐ Blue Bombers draft choice Kyle Borsa
"I’m not too worried about who’s there right now. It’s kind of out of my control so I’m just gonna go there, play my game, and do what I have to do to earn a roster spot."
As for being from Riderville and getting drafted to Bomberland, that’s fine by Borsa. He won’t be the only one ditching the green for the Blue and Gold as the Bombers drafted Regina linebacker Robbie Lowes in the fourth round.
"There are lots of people that are saying ‘How am I supposed to wear Blue?’ and all of that, but for the most part, everyone is really happy for me. Personally, I wouldn’t be any happier than I am right now if I was on the Riders. I’m good with where I’m at."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.