Manitoba nose tackle David Onyemata, Calgary centre Sean McEwen and Laval guard Charles Vaillancourt have been selected to represent Canadian Interuniversity Sport football in the 91st edition of the prestigious East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 23 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Kickoff is scheduled for 4 pm ET, live on NFL Network. The game will also be live online as a streaming radio broadcast produced by the EWSG Radio Network, which can be accessed at www.shrinegame.com/en/GameWeek.
The longest running university all-star game in the United States, the Shrine Game has been played annually since 1925 to raise funds for Shriners Hospitals for Children and to raise awareness about the expert orthopedic, burn, spinal cord injury rehabilitation, as well as cleft lip and palate care, available to patients and families through the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children in the USA, Canada and Mexico.
Since 1985, CIS has been represented annually at the event which features over 100 all-stars, primarily from NCAA institutions. On most occasions, two CIS players have made the trip across the border, with the exception of 1985 (1), 2008 (4), 2012 (3), and now 2016 (3).
A native of Lagos, Nigeria, Onyemata had never played football before moving to Canada five years ago. After four exceptional campaigns with the Bisons, the 6-foot-4, 300-pound arts student is the top-ranked CIS prospect – second overall – on the latest CFL Scouting Bureau list in advance of the league’s 2016 draft.
The 23-year-old had a tremendous fourth season with the U of M this fall, earning his second straight Canada West all-star nod, his first selection as an all-Canadian and the J.P. Metras Trophy as the top down lineman in CIS football. A starter in all eight league games, he finished second in his conference and ninth in the country in sacks (5), was also second in Canada West in tackles for a loss (7.5) and ranked 12th in overall tackles (38.5), all of this despite being double-teamed on most plays. He also contributed one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
McEwen, who hails from Calgary, was the second CIS player selected in the 2015 CFL draft last May, when the Toronto Argonauts picked him third overall. Instead of turning pro right away, the team captain elected to return to the Dinos this fall to complete his science degree and the move paid off, both in the classroom and on the field.
In his fifth and final university season, the 6-foot-3, 297-pound veteran was named a Canada West all-star for the fourth straight year and an all-Canadian for the third consecutive campaign, including back-to-back first-team nods. He helped the Dinos shatter the conference record for points scored for the second year in a row with 471 in eight league games, for a mindboggling average of 58.9 per contest. Thanks in large part to his steady play under centre, Calgary led the Canada West conference in every major offensive category and quarterback Andrew Buckley captured his second straight Hec Crighton Trophy after setting a new CIS single-season standard with 3,162 passing yards.
Vaillancourt, a native of Coaticook, Que., moved up four positions to No. 6 on the latest CFL Scouting Bureau list and is currently considered the second-best CIS prospect behind Onyemata. The 6-foot-4, 325-pound business administration student will move to the pro ranks as one of the most decorated offensive lineman in CIS football history.
In four seasons with Laval, he helped the team capture a pair of Vanier Cup titles, was named an all-Canadian every year – including first-team selections each of the past three campaigns – and this fall was the RSEQ conference nominee for the J.P. Metras Trophy as the nation’s best down lineman. The 23-year-old team captain, who represented Team World at the 2012 International Bowl in Texas, was as dominant as ever in 2015, helping the Rouge et Or offence top the Quebec league in points (37.3 per game), total yards (506.9) and rushing (211.0).