He was a 21-year-old from Riverton who had never played a snap in his life.
That didn't stop Carter Comeau — living in Kelowna, B.C., and working as a linesman in the B.C. Junior Hockey League at the time — from calling Okanagan Sun head coach Ben Macauley and asking for a tryout. The coach of the B.C. junior football club had to tell Comeau walk-ons were verboten and players need an invitation to try out.
An hour later, Comeau gave it one more shot. He sent Macauley a text and this time, Comeau added an important piece of information: He stands 6-6 and weighs 350 pounds.
"He told me 'Give me five minutes, I'll call you right back,'" Comeau told the Free Press in a phone interview from Calgary.
Fast forward four years to today and Comeau is preparing for another phone call. The offensive lineman has a chance to be picked in the CFL Draft on May 4. Comeau was invited to the CFL's virtual national combine and will be submitting his videos this week.
After one season anchoring the Sun's offensive line, Comeau had offers from U Sports schools across the country and even grabbed the attention from scouts south of the border before ultimately deciding to take his talents to the University of Calgary Dinos. The Dinos used 2018 as a developmental year for the inexperienced Comeau, but in 2019, he was a starting guard and helped the team win the Vanier Cup.
"You see Calgary always at the top and playing for a chance to get somewhere. They're always a game or two away from the Vanier Cup or they're at the Vanier Cup. I never won a damn thing when I played hockey. I just really wanted to win a championship and I thought the best opportunity was with Calgary and I guess two years later, it came to life," said Comeau, 25, a defenceman for the Winnipeg Blues (MJHL), Stonewall Jets (MMJHL) and Arborg Ice Dawgs (KJHL) prior to his football days.
"Football is nowhere near the map in Riverton. I always watched the CFL and knew the basics of everything, but nothing in detail. I always wanted to play because I was always bigger than everybody." — Carter Comeau
The University of Manitoba Bisons, who nearly spoiled Calgary's run to the national title in the Hardy Cup semifinal — pushing the Dinos in a 47-46 thriller — was Comeau's second choice. For Bisons head coach Brian Dobie, Comeau was the one that got away.
That doesn't stop Dobie from raving about Comeau to the CFL's decision-makers.
"Man, he broke my heart. I had no idea he was going to commit to Calgary. When he committed, I was driving and gave him a call and said 'Hey Carter, how you doing?' He said 'Umm, I'm good coach. How are you?' Ugh. I knew immediately that something's not right here," said Dobie with a laugh.
"But I can say this. I'm happy to say this. One particular CFL team had ranked some offensive linemen and he was in that grouping. They asked my opinion and my comment was he might be one of the so-called long-term sleepers in this year's draft. He's still raw, but that kid is gigantic and he can move for a big man... Obviously, the University of Calgary has done a great job with him and he's made tremendous progress, but heck, he's not even close to his ceiling."
Considering Comeau's limited experience and the fact he grew up 90 minutes north of Winnipeg in a town that isn't known for producing football talent, it's remarkable he's now in a position where CFL teams are doing their homework on him.
"Football is nowhere near the map in Riverton. I always watched the CFL and knew the basics of everything, but nothing in detail. I always wanted to play because I was always bigger than everybody. I probably would've been better at it than a hockey career, but hopefully, that's going to come into play in a little bit here. Football was never the plan for me until I was 21 years old," he said.
Comeau wasn't able to build off his success from 2019, as last year's USports season was cancelled. If he doesn't make a CFL team this year, he will be eligible to play this fall for the Dinos, as 2020 did not count towards eligibility. USports is also allowing a one-time exception to the rule requiring players be 25 or younger, meaning players who exceed the limit by a year can still take the field in 2021. While Comeau has some clarity on his university status, the same can't be said for what a 2021 CFL season will look like. If there isn't a full training camp and preseason, it's going to be tough for rookies such as Comeau to get reps and show their worth.
"When I first started at 21, you finish the season, get a scholarship and you're thinking you're going pro and now this happens. Now it's just like, 'what the hell just happened?' I think it's a big question mark because there really hasn't been an update, either," said Comeau.
"It's just speculation so I try not to pay attention to it too much until trusted things come out. Besides that, it's just working like everything will be on track to start on time and be normal. But at the same time, you know there's going to be challenges ahead."
Regardless of what the CFL looks like this year and into the future, Comeau is hoping there's a place for him in the league. He wasn't able to follow in the footsteps of his uncle, 'The Riverton Rifle' Reggie Leach, and get to the NHL, but football has given him another opportunity to make it as a pro.
"Of course, your dream is always to be an NHL player or whatever, but that dream slowly fades away when you're 16, 17, 18, especially when you can't even stick in a Junior A league. For me, I let that go. I didn't make it in hockey and now, I have to make it. It's a second chance and I got to make it now."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.